The Collection. Utamaro, Hiroshige, Weiss

17.01.2019 - 31.03.2019

Exhibition script and design: Anna Król Cooperation: Monika Pawłowska Conservation supervision: Joanna Haba
In 2019, to mark twenty-five years of its existence, the Manggha Museum has prepared a number of exhibitions offering a broad view of the institution’s own collection, developed consistently since its foundation. At present this interesting and diverse assembly comprises over two thousand items – works by artists from Japan and other Far Eastern countries and from Europe. Since 2005 the Manggha Museum has also been assembling a collection of Japanist works, inspired by Japanese art, the only one of this type in Poland.

The first exhibition in the series The Collection showcases masterpieces by the greatest ukiyoe artists – Utamaro, Hokusai, and Hiroshige – as well as examples of Japanism in Polish painting and printmaking – works by Wojciech Weiss, Karol Frycz, and Witold Wojtkiewicz.

Utamaro Kitagawa (1753–1806), a representative of the golden period of the ukiyoe print, was a master of the female portrait, in the genre known as bijinga, or pictures of beauties. He created an ideal of the Japanese woman, primarily the courtesan – the prostitute elevated to the rank of goddess. His art usually attracts such descriptions as ephemeral, elusive, mysterious, and sensually beautiful. Utamaro is a mysterious artist himself; we know very little about him. At the same time, he may be the best-known Japanese artist outside the country, recognizable despite the cultural differences.

Hiroshige Utagawa (1797–1858), alongside Utamaro and Hokusai, is one of the greatest ukiyoe artists, those who had a decisive impact on the Western art of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It was primarily with his series of landscapes that he rose to fame, the most notable being The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō Highway or One Hundred Famous Views of Edo. He rendered masterful views of the landscape at differing times of the day and year, and in varying weather conditions. He employed innovative compositional solutions, unconventional spatial ideas, and an original way of framing details of reality. These naturalistic and at once ambient prints create a remarkable, fascinating vision of Japan. A body of around ten thousand works credited to him are known.

Wojciech Weiss (1875–1950), one of the major representatives of the Young Poland movement and Polish Japanism, sometimes referred to as ‘the Cracovian Japoniste’, observed nature with attention and sensitivity, making pictorial notes of its various manifestations, in accordance with the rhythms of the four seasons of the year. On small pieces of canvas and paper, he sketched and painted flowers and birds – wild and cultivated – as well as fruits and vegetables. He created a kind of herbal, containing precise, almost botanical depictions of his favourite plants. These included nasturtiums, irises and water lilies, due to their decorative form, also coltsfeet and poppies, as well as sunflowers – blooming, yielding fruit, and withering. Many of these depictions emanate sadness and reflection on transience.
Anna Król



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