“Japan is the Key…”: Collecting Prints and Ivories, 1900–1920
Through her [Japan’s] temperament, her individuality, her deeper insight into the secrets of the East, her ready designing of the powers of the West, and more than all through the fact that she enjoys the privilege of being a pioneer, it may have been decreed in the secret council chambers of destiny that on her shores shall be first created the new art which shall prevail throughout the world for the next thousand years.—Sadakichi Hartmann
Japan is the key to the Orient.—H. J. Heinz
This exhibition presents highlights from Carnegie Museum of Art’s significant collection of iconic Japanese woodblock prints (ukiyo-e) in an entirely new way, uniting them with Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s holdings of exquisite Japanese carved ivories (okimono). These collections were formed in the early years of the 20th century, motivated by European and North American acceptance of Japan as an emerging modern power, and the aesthetic appeal of Japanese art to artists and collectors. Japan is the Key… tells the story of two very different men who promoted Carnegie Institute’s early interest in Japanese art: poet and critic Sadakichi Hartmann, who masterminded the Department of Fine Arts’ controversial exhibitions of Japanese prints in the first decade of the 20th century; and ketchup magnate H. J. Heinz, who acquired ivories on his world-wide travels on behalf of local industry and religious organizations. This exhibition offers a rare view of this period of cultural interchange through the lens of the personalities that shaped it.
Japan is the Key… features over 50 rarely-seen Japanese prints, including traditional masterworks by Hiroshige Andō, Katsushika Hokusai, Utamaro Kitagawa, and Kunisada (Toyokuni III), as well as highlights from Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s collection of Japanese ivory figures of people, animals, and gods.
Support for this exhibition was provided by The Fellows of Carnegie Museum of Art, Anonymous, Lila Penchansky and Daniel Russell, The Japan Foundation, New York, and The Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania. General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.