Gibbes Museum Japanese prints on view through fall 2021

The Gibbes Museum of Art, home to one of the most significant collections of Japanese woodblock prints in the Southeast, will present two new exhibitions that reveal the complexity and importance of Japanese art and how its history collides with Charleston. The Gibbes Museum Japanese prints exhibitions, Lasting Impressions: Japanese Prints from the Read-Simms Collection and Japonisme in Charleston: Alice Smith and Her Circle, will be on view from April 30 through October 3. 

“We are thrilled to present two new special exhibitions that demonstrate the global significance of Japanese art,” says Angela Mack, executive director at the Gibbes Museum of Art. “Our visitors will have the opportunity to see world-class examples of Japanese woodblock prints from a collection that was formed in Charleston in the early decades of the 20th century. These images by luminaries like Sharaku, Hokusai, and Hiroshige had a tremendous impact on artists worldwide from Monet, Degas, and Van Gogh to artists working right here in Charleston. Thanks to the keen eyes of the original collectors the Gibbes is fortunate to have in its collection both exceptional examples of popular prints like Hokusai’s Red Fuji as well as several rare one-of-a-kind images.”

Lasting Impressions: Japanese Prints from the Read-Simms Collection

Lasting Impressions: Japanese Prints from the Read-Simms Collection will showcase 60 exceptional and rare prints amassed by Charleston collector, Motte Alston Read, and his sister, Mary Read Hume Simms of New Orleans, during the first decades of the 20th century, a period often referred to as the “Golden Age” of print collecting. The Read-Simms Collection was donated to the Gibbes in 1947 and reflects the full range of popular print subjects by master Ukiyo-e artists of the Edo period, from dramatic Kabuki theater actors, portrayed by Suzuki Harunobu and Tōshūsai Sharaku in the 18th century, to vibrant landscapes by Utagawa Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai in the 19th century.

The exhibition is accompanied by a beautiful, fully illustrated catalogue featuring entries by Japanese fine art specialist, Sebastian Izzard, and an in-depth essay on the collectors by Sara C. Arnold and Stephen G. Hoffius.

Japonisme in Charleston: Alice Smith and Her Circle

Carolina Paroquet, 1935, By Anna Heyward Taylor (American, 1879-1956); Wood-block print on paper; Gift of Anna Heyward Taylor; 1937.003.0005; Image courtesy of the Gibbes Museum of Art

Japonisme is a French term coined to describe the craze for Japanese art and design that first gripped the West in the late nineteenth century. In a companion exhibition to Lasting Impressions, the wave of enthusiasm for the Japanese aesthetic in Charleston will be explored through the works of native artist Alice Ravenel Huger Smith who was one of many American artists to react to the western dissemination of Japanese prints.

A close friend and neighbor of collector Motte Alston Read, Smith had unfettered access to Read’s growing library of Japanese prints and she studied them intently. A watercolor specialist and one of Charleston’s most prolific artists, Smith discovered a shared reverence for nature in the work of Japanese artists, which greatly impacted her artistic trajectory. Japonisme in Charleston: Alice Smith and her Circle will feature works by Smith and other Charleston artists who embraced the tenets and techniques of Japanese art.

About the Gibbes Museum of Art

Home to the Carolina Art Association, established in 1858, the Gibbes Museum of Art is recognized among the oldest arts organizations in the United States. Housing one of the foremost collections of American Art from the 18th century to the present, the museum’s mission is to enhance lives through art by engaging people of every background and experience with art and artists of enduring quality and by providing opportunities to learn, to discover, to enjoy and to be inspired by the creative process.

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