Exhibition of modern Japanese art on view in Honolulu

Celebrating a recent donation of 127 artworks by noted collector Terry Welch, the Honolulu Museum of Art presents Transformation: Modern Japanese Art. On view July 27-October 15, the exhibition features paintings, ceramics and lacquerware produced between the 1860s and 1930s, a dynamic yet often overlooked chapter in Japanese art history.  

“This monumental gift shines a light on a period of profound social change and artistic innovation, and it further enriches the museum’s noteworthy collection of modern Japanese art,” HoMA Director Halona Norton-Westbrook said. “We look forward to sharing these works with our community and offering visitors a glimpse into Japan’s past through these stunning creations.”

Amidst political, economic and social influences from other countries, Japanese art underwent a remarkable metamorphosis during the modern period. A period of diplomatic isolationism lasting over 200 years came to an end, and as the nation became part of an international community, the Japanese government expressed a new sense of cultural enlightenment by establishing public art schools and sponsoring national art exhibitions. 

While promoting Nihonga (literally “Japanese painting”), a revival of classical art techniques as a contemporary and national style, painters collaborated with specialists in ceramics and lacquer and other media to develop an innovative, interdisciplinary aesthetic. Transformation explores the wide range of individuals responsible for these achievements, from pioneers of the county’s new art education system to superstars of national exhibitions and independent eccentrics.

 “Artists rediscovered the past and used its bedrock to build a road to the future,” Curator of Asian Art Shawn Eichman, who curated the exhibition, said. “Art of this era has its own distinct character, encompassing new ways of thinking while respecting tradition. HoMA’s strengths in Japanese art from the late 19th and early 20th centuries make the museum uniquely situated to present an exhibition on this exciting subject.”

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