Exhibition explores influence of industrialist H. J. Heinz and poet Sadakichi Hartmann
An exhibition of two rarely-seen Japanese collections from the early years of Carnegie Institute (now Museums of Art and Natural History) will capture the excitement and intrigue surrounding the museums' first encounters with these exquisite objects.
Opening in Gallery One at Carnegie Museum of Art, "Japan is the Key...": Collecting Japanese Art, 1900-1920 traces the development of these collections through the two larger-than-life men responsible for Carnegie Institute's ambitious exhibitions of Japanese art in the first decade of the 20th century. By re-examining the museum of art's masterwork prints, including works by Hiroshige, Hokusai, and Utamaro, along with the museum of natural history's delicate, dynamic ivories, this exhibition allows for exciting new building-wide collaborations in object research and conservation, as well as a new look into institutional history.
Sadakichi Hartmann and H. J. Heinz were vastly different men, united by a common fascination with Japan at the turn-of-the-century. Hartmann was a poet and critic of Japanese-German parentage. Flamboyant, waspishly brilliant, and an exponent of modernism and japonisme, Hartmann seems to have masterminded the Carnegie Institute Department of Fine Arts's controversial early exhibitions of Japanese prints and avant-garde photography. Heinz, a pillar of industrial America, visited Japan through his business engagements and his commitment to Christian ministry work, loaning his rapidly growing collection of ivory carvings to Carnegie Institute in 1910. Both left a legacy in the collections of the Institute, now Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, and linked Pittsburgh to an international discourse on Japan's rapidly growing cultural and economic impact.
"Japan is the Key…" presents highlights from these significant collections of rare prints (ukiyo-e) and ivories (okimono). Now spread between both museums, these artworks tell the stories of two personalities, each fascinated by the emerging cultural and aesthetic dialogue between Japan and the West. Both understood that 19th- and early 20th-century Japanese arts combined historic Asian traditions and avant-garde Western ideas in ways that could predict or shape the 20th-century. Both also grasped that this exchange affected more than aesthetic tastes, it affected world culture.
As forward-thinking as these men were about the ways that Japanese art would shape modern art movements, their assessments of artworks were often just plain wrong. Hartmann approached his collecting activities with enthusiasm and high ideals, but he did not possess the specialist knowledge to acquire truly great examples of the art form.
It was not until 1917 that the Institute learned this, when Kojiro Tomita, a Japan expert from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts visited the museum, and pointed out that a substantial amount of these purchases were second-rate re-strikes. Director of Fine Arts John Beatty destroyed these prints. He had already hired Edward Duff Balken as the museum's first curator of prints and drawings, and Balken corrected course, purchasing dozens of important masterwork prints in 1916 and 1918.
"Japan is the Key…" will showcase the museums' most beautiful objects from this period, and tell the story of Pittsburgh's early encounters with a newly-opened Japan. The exhibition also presents an opportunity to research, conserve, and re-connect the print and ivory collections, now dispersed across the two museums, including a colossal ivory eagle, which was a visitor favorite for decades.
The exhibition opens March 30, 2013 in Gallery One of the museum's Scaife Galleries.
Important works on view include:
Katsushika Hokusai Japanese, 1760–1849; Yohachi Nishimuraya, publisher; South Wind, Clear Dawn (Gaifu kaisei), c. 1830-1831 woodcut on paper Purchase, 18.14.7
This spare and dramatic image of Mount Fuji is a later, rare, alternate state of Hokusai’s Red Fuji, one of the most famous ukiyo-e landscapes. Printed in a limited range of blues, black, and gray, it epitomizes the aesthetic relationship between traditional Japanese art and modern abstraction.
Japanese; Long Procession of Toads; carved ivory
A skilled carver has transformed a single tusk of ivory into a lively parade of frogs/toads satirizing a Japanese warlord and his retainers on the move. Recent cleaning has revealed fascinating details, including a hammock full of baby amphibians slung between some marchers and the national flag with its central sun symbol colored with red pigment.
Hiroshige Andô Japanese, 1797–1858; Taheiji Okasawaya, publisher; A Night View of the Eight Famous Places in Kanazawa in Musashino Prefecture, (Buyô Kanazawa hassho yakei), 1857; woodcut on paper; triptych Purchase, 18.14.10
Hiroshige exploits the panoramic format of the triptych (three vertical prints side by side) to create one of the few pure landscapes in the history of traditional Japanese printmaking. Despite the realism of the scene, the artist’s emphasis on the province’s eight famous places relates to a centuries-old theme from Chinese poetry.
Utamaro Kitagawa Japanese, 1754–1806; Chusuke Yamaguchiya, publisher; Enjoying the evening cool on the banks of the Sumida river, 1795-1796; woodcut on paper (triptych)
As a printmaker, Utamaro is renowned for his graceful line and refined, delicate coloring. The latter is on full display in this triptych with its unusual color scheme dominated by black, gray and rose. The former lent itself to the representation of the famous beauties, geisha, of Edo’s notorious Yoshiwara district. Utamaro’s elegant women set new standards for feminine appearance and behavior when they were popularized in Europe and the United States in the late 19th century.
Support for "Japan is the Key…" has been provided by The Japan Foundation, New York, and by Lila Penchansky and Daniel Russell. General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Carnegie Museum of Art
Located at 4400 Forbes Avenue in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art was founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, it is nationally and internationally recognized for its distinguished collection of American and European works from the 16th century to the present. The Heinz Architectural Center, part of Carnegie Museum of Art, is dedicated to enhancing understanding of the physical environment through its exhibitions, collections, and public programs. For more information about Carnegie Museum of Art, call 412.622.3131 or visit our website at www.cmoa.org.