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Stroke of genius: Japan via France

Japanese Connections: The Birth of Modern Décor to open at the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Left: Utagawa Hiroshige. Tôto Asukayama Japan, 1858. © Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi/APF. Right: Édouard Vuillard, Public Gardens: Conversation, 1894. © Musée d’Orsay.

Many consider them spiritual design sisters: Japan and France. Louvre Abu Dhabi’s exhibition Japanese Connections: The Birth of Modern Décor (6 September-24 November) examines this aesthetic exchange in their display of 19th and 20th century paintings, prints and screens that highlight cultural dialogues between East and West.

Curated by Isabelle Cahn, General Curator at Musée d’Orsay, the exhibition is the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s first exhibition for the 2018 autumn season. It will display of 19th and 20th century paintings, prints and folding screens that highlight the artistic and cultural dialogue between Japan and France, and the important influence of the colourful ukiyo-e aesthetics on modern decorative arts.

Manuel Rabaté, Director of Louvre Abu Dhabi, said: ‘Louvre Abu Dhabi’s ethos celebrates cultural connection, dialogue and exchange, and this approach is intrinsic to our curation throughout the permanent galleries and international exhibitions. The exhibition will shine a light on one significant moment of exchange and inspiration; these moments open our eyes to the interconnected history of human societies, nurturing shared understanding’.

The exhibition will present 41 artworks and 15 documents by 12 artists, including French artists Paul Sérusier, Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Ker-Zavier Roussel, who made up the renowned Nabis group of artists; Marguerite Sérusier and Odilon Redon; and five Japanese ukiyo-e masters: Katsushika Hokusai, Hara Zaimei, Utagawa Hiroshige, Kano Tanshin and Toshusai Sharaku.

Isabelle Cahn said: ‘By bringing this exceptional selection of works together, the exhibition traces the fundamental contribution of Japanese aesthetics to the development of decorative principles of modern painting in France at the end of the 19th century. Presented for the first time in an exhibition, this dialogue between East and West celebrates creativity and cross-cultural inspiration between the Ukiyo-e artists and the Nabis painters through a coloured, vibrant and refined expression’.

Ten prints and three screens from Japan in dialogue with 24 paintings and three screens from France will also be included. The Japanese works include South Wind, Clear Sky from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (1831-32) and Yôrô Waterfall in Mino Province (1830-1834) by Katsushika Hokusai, the most renowned ukiyo-e master; Utagawa Hiroshige’s Tôto Sumida tsutumi (1858); and a six-leaved screen depicting a Cherry Tree in Blossom on a Plain Gold Ground by Hara Zaimei.

The works have been assembled from the collections of Louvre Abu Dhabi, Musée d’Orsay, Musée national des Arts asiatiques – Guimet and Musée des Arts Décoratifs (MAD).