Exhibition: Lines from East Asia – Japanese and Chinese Art on Paper (Graphische Sammlung ETH Zurich)

Date of event:   17/08/2022 − 13/11/2022

Title: Lines from East Asia: Japanese and Chinese Art on Paper
Duration: 17 August 2022 to 13 November 2022
Location: Graphische Sammlung ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

As an artistic medium, Japanese and Chinese coloured woodcuts are remarkable for their immediate aesthetic appeal. Their delicately curving lines, idiosyncratically juxtaposed areas of brilliant color, disarming clarity of form, and bold compositions exert a fascination that is undeniable. The Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich was one of the earliest collections in Switzerland and to acquire East Asian works on paper and thus pursues a global art historical vision. These holdings have been exhibited in the collection’s own spaces only once before: on that occasion, in 1904, woodcuts by Japanese masters were shown alongside works by the European heroes of this printmaking medium, above all Albrecht Dürer.

Now, 118 years later, the crucial significance of Japanese coloured woodcuts for the birth of modern art is widely recognised. The present exhibition thus shows East Asian works on paper together with late nineteenth – and early twentieth-century European master prints from the collection of the Graphische Sammlung, including works by Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Emil Orlik, and Martha Cunz.

The heterogeneity of the East Asian holdings of the Graphische Sammlung offers an opportunity to show very different facets of Japanese and Chinese printmaking: from the famous landscapes of Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858), to the beautiful women of Utamaro Kitagawa (1753–1806) and influential manga volumes of Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), to images of actors, detailed studies of plants and insects, and entertaining shunga prints with their often surprisingly explicit erotic content.

The exhibition is accompanied by a full-length catalogue published by Michael Imhof Verlag.

Curated by Susanne Pollack, Graphische Sammlung ETH Zürich, and Hans Bjarne Thomsen, Abteilung für Kunstgeschichte Ostasiens, University of Zurich.

For more information, please visit the website here.


Image: Kitagawa Utamaro, Woman Reading a Letter (detail), from the series “Ten Types in the Physiognomic Study of Women”, colour woodblock print on mica-ground, 1790, 340 x 234 mm, Graphische Sammlung ETH Zurich, inv. D 29468