On view through January 1, 2012
Admiration for Japanese art was a defining characteristic of the Parisian artistic avant-garde in the late nineteenth 19th century. The printmaker Henri Rivière took his appreciation further than most of his compatriots: he taught himself the labor-intensive woodblock technique used by Japanese printmakers and used it (and later color lithography) to produce print albums that deliberately emulated theirs―most famously, Thirty-Six Views of the Eiffel Tower, a modern, urban take on Katsushika Hokusai’s celebrated Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji.
Drawn entirely from the Museum’s extensive holdings of Rivière’s prints and drawings, Echoes of Japan is the first exhibition at SBMA to showcase the full range of the artist’s work, from his early days as a designer of shadow plays for Montmartre’s bohemian Cabaret du Chat Noir to the albums of Parisian cityscapes and Breton landscapes with which he made his name. Rivière’s prints, as well as a handful of independent etchings and drawings, will be supplemented by a selection of the Japanese landscape prints that inspired him. Although very few of his woodblocks survive, a set of blocks carved by his contemporary, Frank Morley Fletcher (1866–1949), is included in the display to help bring Rivière’s working process to life. His prints vividly illustrate the way he overlaid one type of exoticism―the landscape and Celtic culture of Brittany―with another: in the words of critic Claude Roger-Marx, he treated Brittany “as an extension of the Japanese archipelago.”
Images (all by Henri Rivière, French, 1864-1951): Moonlight, 1896. Lithograph. SBMA, Gift of Sara and Armond Fields;
Boats at Anchor at Tréboul, 1906. Lithograph. SBMA, Gift of Sara and Armond Fields;
The First Star at Landiris, 1907. Lithograph. SBMA, Gift of Sara and Armond Fields;
The Last Ray, 1902. Lithograph. SBMA, Gift of Sara and Armond Fields;
The Tower Under Construction, 1902. Lithograph. SBMA, Gift of Sara and Armond Fields;