Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints

October 4, 2012 – January 20, 2013

Henri Rivière, Vegetable Garden at Ville-Hue (Saint-Briac), 1890, From the Breton Landscapes, Color woodblock print printed from eight blocks on eighteenth-century Japanese laid paper. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Paul and Miriam Kirkl

Above: Henri Rivière, Vegetable Garden at Ville-Hue (Saint-Briac), 1890, From the Breton Landscapes, Color woodblock print printed from eight blocks on eighteenth-century Japanese laid paper. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Paul and Miriam Kirkley Fund for Acquisitions, 2006.12.

The rise of color printmaking in France in the late nineteenth century is often attributed to a fascination with Japanese woodblock prints, which began to circulate in great numbers after the opening of Japan in 1854.

But a closer look at the history of color printmaking in these two cultures reveals that the story is not so simple. Parallel traditions were flourishing in both France and Japan well before 1854. And, when the two cultures met, the channels of technical and aesthetic influence flowed in both directions, not merely from East to West.

Embracing these complexities, Awash in Color explores the roles, functions, and technology of color in French and Japanese prints. It features more than one hundred and thirty prints and illustrated books dating from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, drawn from the Smart Museum’s substantial holdings as well as major public and private collections across the country. These exquisite works reveal two unfolding traditions—each shaped by artistic experimentation and technological progress—that came to complement each other aesthetically, even while preserving their own distinctive features.


Publication

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue incorporating essays and entries by leading print scholars and art historians. The volume will trace the history of color printing in a comparative cultural context.


Related Programs

Free public programs

Master Class: François Chaplin
October 19, 2012

Lecture and Recital:
Claude Debussy and the Visual Arts

October 20, 2012

Family Day: Cool Collages
November 3, 2012

Yasuko Yokoshi: Bell, a work in progress
November 15, 2012

Lunch-hour Talk: "Marketing Beauty: Reading Pictures of the Yoshiwara Courtesans in Context"
November 30, 2012

Curator Tour
January 20, 2013

UChicago Student Programs

Party at the Smart
October 18, 2012

Study at the Smart
December 6, 2012

Smart Partners Programs

Exclusive Preview
October 3, 2012


Top: Kitagawa Utamaro, Taking Shelter from a Sudden Summer Shower under a Huge Tree (detail), early 1790s, Color woodblock print, triptych. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gaylord Donnelley, from the Frances Gaylord Smith Collection, 1972.14.

★★★★★

“The prints in Awash in Color overflow with inventiveness, great design, and beautiful representations of the people, landscapes, and manners of their time”

—Time Out Chicago