‘It is desirable for a Painter, at least once in his life, to witness the Eruption of a volcano.’ – Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes (1799). Join exhibition contributor Clive Oppenheimer, Professor of Volcanology at the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge, and explore the ‘Volcanoes’ section of True to Nature. #TrueToNature is open at the Fitzwilliam Museum until 29 August 2022 https://fitz.ms/ttn
The Japanese painter Kawanabe Kyōsai (1831–1889) was one of the most innovative artists of his day. He lived during a turbulent time, experiencing the downfall of the Tokugawa shogunate (the hereditary military government) and the new imperial regime’s reforms to modernise and Westernise the country. Kyōsai’s drive to capture the world with his brush earned him the nickname ‘demon of painting’ – which he lived by.
00:00 Room 1: From Tradition to Innovation
Kyōsai, as a highly trained painter, was proficient in traditional methods and subjects. He broke with convention by blurring the established boundary between ‘serious’ and comic pictures. Traditionally, complex painting techniques were reserved for literary classics, historical and legendary figures, auspicious themes and religious images. Comic pictures were typically produced in a lighter, more fluid style.
Kyōsai often saw humour in ‘serious’ subjects and introduced comic and everyday content in highly finished, detailed paintings. The selection in this room demonstrates Kyōsai’s range and skill across diverse genres. Subjects include animals, monsters, ghosts, protective deities and Buddhist icons. Some paintings display powerful Kano-style ink techniques, others depict humorous creatures – recalling works by his first teacher, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, and referencing medieval picture scrolls. He can be seen exploring Western techniques such as perspective, shading and the study of anatomy, which attests to his insatiable curiosity and desire to push beyond tradition.
04:17 Room 2: Laughing at Modernity
Kyōsai had a keen interest in society, and captured contemporary events in his pictures with humour and piquancy. His satirical prints from the 1860s, the period leading up to the collapse of the shogunate regime, reflect widespread anxiety about the political turmoil, economic instability and foreign presence. He channelled the febrile atmosphere into dynamic images of frog battles, monster parties and wildly dancing tengu (mischievous, semi-human creatures). Under the new Meiji government, the sudden influx of Western-style culture greatly shocked many Japanese, after over 260 years of relative isolation.
Kyōsai’s comic pictures express both the excitement of the new era, with modern technologies such as the telegraph and trains, and a certain scepticism towards those who blindly followed the new trends. The government’s policy of hiring European and American specialists to teach at new institutions in Japan brought the painter a personal benefit. The British architect Josiah Conder (1852–1920) became his pupil around 1881, and remained a student, patron and friend until Kyōsai’s death in 1889.
05:54 Room 3: The Artist Meets His Public
In nineteenth-century Japan, artists often produced works impromptu in front of an audience. The creative process was appreciated as a performance. At commercially organised calligraphy and painting parties called shogakai, attendees would pay for admission, and once inside, could ask the artists to create works for them at no extra charge. These gatherings were frequently a platform for collaboration. Multiple painters would complete a picture together or a calligrapher would inscribe a poem by the painter’s work. Kyōsai often depicted a scene of art viewing, and the artworks within the image would be painted by other artists.
Collaboration has always been an important part of the creative process in Japan, among artist friends or between teacher and pupils, sharing and marking the occasion. Event flyers, newspaper articles and anecdotes attest that Kyōsai was famous for his speedy, skilful and witty performances. The parties involved copious alcohol. Kyōsai loved saké and his brush became even more playful and expressive when intoxicated. Josiah Conder wrote in his master’s obituary: ‘under the influence of BACCHUS some of his strangest fancies, freshest conceptions and boldest touches were inspired.’
The architecture of Kelmscott Manor is woven into William Morris’s 1890 novel, News from Nowhere, in which a journey exploring utopian ideals in a post-industrial world leads, after much wandering, to a ‘many-gabled old house built by the simple country-folk of the long-past times’. There is no ‘extravagant love of ornament’ here, only a feeling that ‘the house itself and its associations was the ornament of the country life amidst which it had been left stranded from old times’. It is a poignant vision that underlines both a respect for the past and an ideal of a new society based on mutual interest and support.
Today, this old stone-built farm house is best known as the Morrises’ country home, from 1871. First leased as a retreat from busy London life, it became a vital point of reference for Morris, as artist, designer and poet; it was his ‘Heaven on Earth’, and a source of profound emotional and artistic inspiration.
True to Nature: Open-air Painting in Europe 1780-1870 Explore the inventive ways artists in the 18th and 19th centuries recorded fleeting moments in nature, capturing the effects of light, drama, and atmosphere first-hand in the open air.
A cinematic travel video of Thar Desert Fort known as Naukot Fort in Tharparkar, Sindh Pakistan.
Naukot Fort is a fortification that was established by Mir Karam Ali Khan Talpur in 1814. It is situated in Mithi Taluka, Tharparkar District, approximately 64 km in the south of Mirpur Khas town, Sindh. Its location gave it its other common name, “The Gateway to the Thar Desert”.
Join Perrin Stein, Curator, in the Department of Drawings and Prints, for a virtual tour of Jacques Louis David: Radical Draftsman, the first exhibition devoted to works on paper by the celebrated French artist.
David navigated vast artistic and political divides throughout his life—from his birth in Paris in 1748 to his death in exile in Brussels in 1825—and his iconic works captured the aspirations and suffering of a nation, while addressing timeless themes that continue to resonate today. Through the lens of his preparatory studies, the exhibition looks beyond his public successes to chart the moments of inspiration and the progress of ideas.
Visitors will follow the artist’s process as he gave form to the neoclassical style and created major canvases that shaped the public’s perceptions of historical events in the years before, during, and after the French Revolution. Organized chronologically, the exhibition will feature more than eighty drawings and oil sketches—including rarely loaned or newly discovered works—drawn from the collections of The Met and dozens of institutional and private lenders.
Learn more about the exhibition: https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions…
This major exhibition, of works drawn from the Ashmolean’s collections as well as international loans, will span Pissarro’s entire career.
Camille Pissarro (1830–1903) is one of the most celebrated artists of nineteenth-century France and a central figure in Impressionism. Considered a father-figure to many in the movement, his work was enormously influential for many artists, including Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne. It opens in spring 2022.
The department of European and American Art Before 1900 oversees a collection that includes more than 3,000 artworks and is composed of painting, sculpture, and works on paper, with significant strengths in early Italian Renaissance, 19th century French painting, and British art from 1400 to 1900.
The Denver Art Museum began acquiring notable examples of European art as early as the 1930s, with donations from Samuel H. Kress, Mr. and Mrs. Simon Guggenheim, and the Havemeyers, to name a few. Their generosity helped initiate a collection that grew in time through gifts and purchases.
The Brooklyn Bridge has been an indelible part of the New York City skyline for 140 years. When it was completed in 1883, it was hailed as an engineering marvel and called the Eighth Wonder of the World. It also linked what were then two of America’s largest cities — New York and Brooklyn. The story of its construction is a drama in itself and now a new book, “Building the Brooklyn Bridge,” gives readers an inside view of the 14-year construction process that has been largely out of sight, until now. Michelle Miller has the details.