Looking East at the Frist
It is interesting to speculate on what Western art might look like had Japan not opened its ports to international trade in the 1850s, sending forth a flood of textiles, woodcuts, lanterns, screens, and other objects that captivated artists from Mary Cassatt and Claude Monet to Frank Lloyd Wright, who once described himself as "enslaved" by Japanese prints. Interesting and all but futile given how deeply Japonisme was embedded in much of impressionism, post-impressionism, art nouveau, and early modernism. To account for the vast phenomenon that was Japonisme in the West, the Frist Center in Nashville is mounting an exhibition drawn from and organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where the arts from both sides of the world in this period are exceedingly well represented. Some 170 objects- paintings, decorative arts, arms and armor, and textiles-will be on view to testify that Japonisme was less a vogue than a sea change in Western art.
Organized in thematic sections such as city life, women, nature, and landscape, the exhibition pairs Japanese objects with European and American works to indicate the shape of influence.
Interestingly, the exhibition will travel not just to venues on this continent such as the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec and San Francisco's Asian Art Museum but also to Japan. The MFA is producing a catalogue to accompany the exhibition.
Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan • Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville • January 31 to May 11 • fristcenter.org
Bamboo Yards, Kyobashi Bridge from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo by Utagawa Hiroshige I (1797-1858), 1857. Woodblock print. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.