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Indepth Arts News:

"Wonders of Imperial Japan: Meiji Art from the Khalili Collection"
2006-07-07 until 2006-10-22
van Gogh Museum
Amsterdam, , NL

Wonders of Imperial Japan: Meiji art from the Khalili collection will present a selection of over 200 major items from the famous Khalili collection, the world's largest and most comprehensive private collection of Japanese Meiji art, complemented by paintings by Van Gogh. The works date from the period of the "enlightened rule" of the Japanese emperor Meiji (1868-1912) and this is the first such extensive exhibition of Japanese Meiji art from this collection to appear in Europe.

Japanese art experienced a remarkable period of development during the Meiji  period.  The social changes which had affected Japan since it opened its doors to the West in 1854 had led to the decline of the traditional market; at the same time, an export market had emerged for Japan.  Meiji art is founded on traditional forms, decorations and techniques, and perfection and refinement are central to the production of objects of this period.  A remarkable synthesis of convention and innovation led to a revival of porcelain and cloisonné enamel production.  Remarkable strides were also made in lacquer and metal work.  At the international expositions in Europe and America, Japan astonished the West with its vases, lacquer boxes, panels and even entire cupboards, examples of which are displayed in the exhibition.

Vincent van Gogh was a great admirer of Japanese art and began his collection of prints from Japan, now preserved in the Van Gogh Museum, while in Paris. "You cannot study Japanese art, it seems to me, without becoming much gayer and happier‚" wrote Van Gogh.  In his letters to his brother Theo he discusses his appreciation of Japanese art on several occasions. Writing from Arles on 24 September 1888, he said: "Come now, isn't it almost a true religion which these simple Japanese teach us, who live in nature as though they themselves were flowers?"

The exhibition shows how Van Gogh used typically Japanese themes - blossom, flowers (in particular irises) and birds - in his paintings, alongside various copies the artist made in his own style of Japanese woodcuts after Hiroshige: Flowering plum tree and The bridge in the rain, both dating from 1887.

The Khalili collection was assembled by Professor Nasser D. Khalili.  Born in Iran in 1945, the scholar, patron and businessman has assembled several impressive art collections in the last forty years, from Islamic art and Spanish metalwork to Swedish and Indian textiles.  His collection of Meiji art comprises some 2,000 items.  The entire Khalili collections comprise more than 25,000 objects.

Detail from Vase c. 1905-1910
Earthenware painted and gilded
height 30.2 cm
Khalili Collection

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