“Looking East” exhibition highlights Japanese influence on Matisse, Monet, Van Gogh and more

Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan Opens January 31, 2014

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (November 21, 2013)—Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan, on view in the Frist Center for the Visual Arts’ Ingram Gallery from January 31 through May 11, 2014, celebrates the cultural and aesthetic influences of Japanese art and culture on the Western imagination in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Premiering at the Frist Center, this traveling exhibition reveals aspects of the fruitful exchange by presenting works and objects by influential Japanese artists alongside those of Western luminaries such as Mary Cassatt, Edgar Degas, John La Farge, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, Alfred Stieglitz, Vincent van Gogh, Frank Lloyd Wright among many others.

Visitors to the Frist Center already fond of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces such as Postman Joseph Roulin (1888) by Van Gogh and Under the Horse-Chestnut Tree (1895) by Cassatt may be surprised by their direct connections to Japan highlighted in this exhibition. “There have only been a few exhibitions on this subject and it is exciting for the Frist Center to be the first venue for this one,” says Frist Center Curator Trinita Kennedy. “Because of the presence of Japanese companies, Nashville is the perfect place to celebrate this important moment of artistic exchange between East and West.” The exhibition, which will coincide with the city’s Cherry Blossom Festival, will later be seen throughout Japan and then at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec and San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum.

Drawn from and organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston—world renowned for their Japanese, American, and European collections of this period—Looking East consists of more than 170 objects, including arms and armor, decorative arts, paintings, prints and drawings, and textiles.

When Japan opened its ports to international trade in the 1850s and emerged from centuries of self-imposed isolation, a craze for all things Japanese set in among European and North American collectors, artists and designers. The phenomenon, dubbed japonisme by the Parisian critic Philippe Burty in 1872, created a radical shift in Western tastes toward Japanese aesthetic principles, and is evident in major movements including Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Art Nouveau. Many Western artists first learned about Japanese aesthetics through color woodblock prints known as ukiyo-e, or “pictures of the floating world” that typically depicted scenes from Kabuki theater, red-light districts and other fashionable and fleeting pleasures. “Artists were eager to demonstrate their curiosity about the wider world and Japan was particularly appealing,” says Ms. Kennedy. “Everything about Japan—from the way people dressed and ate and how artists looked at the world—would have been novel to Western artists.”

Looking East is organized into five segments, starting with an introductory section, followed by the themes of city life, women, nature and landscape. For each thematic subject, Japanese objects are paired with American or European works to represent a particular stylistic or technical influence. For example, regarding landscapes, “Instead of using shadows to create convincing three-dimensional forms, the Japanese employed contrasts in color, the repetition of shapes, and a focus on essential features to animate views of such iconic sites as Mount Fuji,” says Ms. Kennedy. “A number of these pictorial devices became part of the Western repertoire.”

Signaling their own cosmopolitanism, Western artists staged their compositions with elegant oriental props; Japanese fans, kimonos, lanterns, screens, umbrellas, and vases, for example, are especially common in French paintings. “The French Impressionist Claude Monet looked to his collection of more than 200 Japanese prints as a source of inspiration, and even based the gardens at his country home in Giverny, France on ukiyo-e landscapes,” explains Ms. Kennedy. Characteristic Japanese flora and fauna motifs such as chrysanthemums and butterflies are also incorporated in Western decorative arts as seen in this exhibition’s elaborately decorated inkstand (1876) by the French designer Paul Legrand. The japonisme influence even extended to architecture, furniture design and book illustrations, examples of which are also on view in this exhibition.

Exhibition Credit

Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan was organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Sponsor Acknowledgment

Supporting Sponsor: Christie’s

Additional support provided from the United States-Japan Foundation

Belmont University and Ocean Way Recording Studios donated recording time and professional expertise in the production of this audio tour. 

The Frist Center for the Visual Arts is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission, the Tennessee Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Exhibition Catalogue

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue produced by MFA Publications at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Related Public Programs

Friday, January 31
12:00 p.m.
Curator’s Perspective: Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan Presented by Helen Burnham, Ph.D., Pamela and Peter Voss Curator of Prints and Drawings, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Frist Center Auditorium  
Gallery admission required, members free; seating is first come, first seated   

From James Abbott McNeill Whistler to Claude Monet and Paul Gauguin, Western artists were profoundly influenced by the visual language of Japanese prints and imported decorative objects. Helen Burnham, curator of Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan, surveys the impact of Japanese art and aesthetics on the development of modern painting in the West in this engaging lecture.

Thursday, February 6 AND Friday, February 7   
6:30 p.m.   
Dance Performance: “Pools of Glass” Choreographed by Marsha Barsky and performed by Company Rose 

Frist Center Auditorium
Gallery admission required; members free
Seating is first come, first seated

On July 8, 1853, American Commodore Matthew Perry led his four ships into the harbor at Tokyo Bay, where he re-established regular trade and discourse between Japan and the West. For her choreography of this original contemporary dance performance, Marsha Barsky and the dancers of Nashville-based Company Rose have voyaged through space and time, drawing inspiration from the exhibition Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan.

The Frist Center is pleased to partner with Company Rose and The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons at Vanderbilt University to present “Pools of Glass.”

Thursday, February 13 
12:00 p.m.
Curator’s Tour: Looking East: WesternArtists and the Allure of Japan Presented by Trinita Kennedy, Frist Center curator

Meet at exhibition entrance
Gallery admission required, members free

Join Trinita Kennedy, curator at the Frist Center, for an insightful tour exploring cross cultural artistic exchange and the influence of Japanese art on Western artists.

Sunday, February 16  
2:00–3:00 p.m.
Artful Tales: “The Stonecutter’s Tale”

Frist Center Auditorium/Studios
Free; seating is first come, first seated

Artful Tales is a FREE family program geared toward everyone ages three and up! Listen and play along as an art-related story comes to life. Then, head upstairs to the art studio and make an artwork that relates to the story.

Enjoy a Japanese folktale about a simple man who wishes for greatness and finds that contentment and happiness may not come in the form he thinks it does. Then, create a colorful painting that celebrates the arrival of spring cherry blossoms. This program connects visitors to the exhibition Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan.

Friday, March 7  
6:00 p.m.
“Traveling East to West with Tea” with Joel and Leah Larabell, owners, High Garden

Frist Center, Rechter Room  
$20/person for members; $25/person for non-members
Advance registration required; call 615.744.3355 by Friday, February 28.

Have you ever wondered how tea influenced empires? See, smell, and sip across the seas with Joel and Leah Larabell from Nashville’s High Garden. This tea tasting experience will satisfy all your senses while you learn about the Eastern cultures that inspired the Western world.  You will leave with a rich understanding of six teas that influenced human history from the Japanese tea ceremony to the traditions of English tea-time and take home your favorite tea to enjoy.   

Friday, March 7*   
7:00 p.m. 
ARTini: Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan

Meet at exhibition entrance
Gallery admission required; members free

Are you curious about art? Do you want to learn more about the content and concepts behind an artist’s work? If you answered yes to either of those questions, then the ARTini program is for you! ARTinis are designed for everyone—from the novice to the connoisseur—and include informal and insightful conversations that offer a deeper understanding of one or two works of art in an exhibition.

Join Frist Center Associate Curator of Interpretation Megan Robertson as she examines several of the iconic works of cross-cultural exchange in Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan on view in the Ingram Gallery until May 11. 

*This event is offered again on Tuesday, March 11 at 12:00 p.m.

Wednesday, March 12   
9:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.   
Educator Workshop: “Looking East: Exploring the Allure of Japanese Art and Gardens”

Frist Center Studios and Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art

$20 for Frist Center and Cheekwood members; $25 for non-members. Cost includes all materials, teacher resources, color reproductions, admission, parking validation, and lunch.

Advanced registration is required. Download the teacher workshop registration form at http://fristcenter.org/learn/schools-educators/educator-workshops. Completed registration forms and payment are due on or before Wednesday, February 19.

Presented in collaboration with Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art, teachers are invited to spend the day learning about Japan’s influence on Western art and culture. Begin the day at the Frist Center learning about Japan’s cultural impact on art of the West with a tour of Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan. In the afternoon, explore Japanese customs with a guided tour of Cheekwood’s Japanese Garden. Frist Center educator workshops are open to educators of all subjects, pre-K–12.

Friday, March 14   
6:30 p.m.  
Lecture: “Dressing Japanese: A Survey of Japonisme’s Impact on Fashion” Presented by Patricia Mears, deputy director, The Museum
at the Fashion Institute of Technology

Frist Center Auditorium 
Gallery admission required,   
members free; seating is first come,  
first seated

Patricia Mears’s lecture traces the profound influences of Japanese art and design on fashion beginning in the late nineteenth century, including how Japanese imagery was used to ornament haute couture garments from the Belle Époque to the art moderne era; how the shape of the kimono stimulated couturieres and ready-to-wear designers in the creation of new forms of clothing construction; and how contemporary fashion is still influenced by Japan’s unique and inimitable street styles.

Saturday, March 29
10:00–11:30 a.m. or 12:30–2:00 p.m.
NEW: Family Workshop Candy Sushi Construction

Target age: 5+ years, Frist Center Studio A, $25 members/$35 non-members: registration fee includes gallery admission and workshop materials for two adults and two children. Additional participants for $3.00 each. Advance registration required; call 615.744.3355 by March 17.

Don’t like to eat raw fish? Work with family and friends to assemble a variety of colorful, tasty treats that look like sushi and sashimi, but taste so much sweeter. Materials used will include Swedish fish, rice crispy treats, red licorice, and more! This program connects families to the exhibition Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan.

Saturday, April 5  
10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.    
“Sumi–e to Plein Air: Landscape PaintingWorkshop”

Frist Center and Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art
$45/person for members; $60/person for non-members; cost includes admission, lunch, and materials. Advance registration required; call 615.744.3355 by Friday, March 28.

Draw creative inspiration from the Frist Center’s exhibition Looking East: Western Artists and the Allure of Japan and learn about the culture that inspired the exhibition’s masterworks. Following a tour of the exhibition, participants will enjoy a plein air workshop at Cheekwood’s Japanese Garden, Shomu-En. Frist Center Associate Educator for Community Engagement Rosemary Brunton will teach the basics of sumi-e, traditional Japanese ink wash painting, and combine them with the watercolor techniques of plein air landscapes to build a creation of your very own. All levels of artistry welcome.


Buddy Kite: 615-744-3351, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Ellen Jones Pryor: 615-243-1311, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


About the Frist Center
Accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit art exhibition center dedicated to presenting and originating high quality exhibitions with related educational programs and community outreach activities. The Frist Center offers the finest visual art from local, regional, national, and international sources in a program of changing exhibitions that inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways. Located at 919 Broadway in downtown Nashville, Tenn., the Frist Center’s Martin ArtQuest Gallery (open until 5:30 p.m. each day) features interactive stations relating to Frist Center exhibitions. Gallery admission to the Frist Center is free for visitors 18 and younger and to Frist Center members. Frist Center admission is $10.00 for adults and $7.00 for seniors, military and college students with ID. College students are admitted free Thursday and Friday evenings (with the exception of Frist Fridays), 5–9 p.m.  Discounts are offered for groups of 10 or more with advance reservation by calling (615) 744-3247. The Frist Center galleries, Café and Gift Shop are open seven days a week: Mondays through Wednesdays, and Saturdays, 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m.–9 p.m. and Sundays, 1–5:30 p.m., with the Frist Center Café opening at noon. Additional information is available by calling (615) 244-3340 or by visiting our website at http://www.fristcenter.org.

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