Japonisme in The Hague? Discover Samurai swords, Satsuma vases and much more from Hendrik Willem Mesdag’s collection of Japanese decorative art. The exhibition 'Mesdag & Japan: Collecting the Far East' was on view this spring.
7 March - 17 June 2018
The painter, art collector and businessman Hendrik Willem Mesdag assembled a collection of Japanese decorative art, ranging from Samurai swords to Satsuma vases, around the opening of his Mesdag Museum in 1887. The exhibition Mesdag & Japan: Collecting the Far East will show how Mesdag came into contact with Japanese art in the 19th century, where and how he collected it and how japonisme influenced art in The Hague.
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Prior to 1854, the Netherlands was the only Western country permitted to trade with Japan. The merchandise it imported included Japanese art and domestic goods. Japan opened its borders more widely in 1868, sparking a craze in the West for the country’s art. Mesdag responded to this unprecedented popularity by purchasing Japanese art objects to show at his Mesdag Museum (now The Mesdag Collection).
Inspiration from the Far East
As time went by, decorative art in The Hague fell under the Japanese spell too: ceramic production flourished and its technique and style were influenced by the Far East. Mesdag collected this form of art as well, and even owned shares in Plateelbakkerij Rozenburg, a prestigious pottery.
Mesdag & Japan: Collecting the Far East will show artworks and objects from throughout this period – both before and after 1868. Extraordinary ceramic bowls, bronze vases, swords, helmets and other weapons will be placed in the context of their time, alongside historical documents.
Publication Mesdag & Japan
Would you like to know more about Mesdag's eclectic collection of Japanese artefacts? The exhibition is accompanied by a richly-illustrated publication. This book pays an homage to Hendrik Willem Mesdag and his outstanding collection of Japanese applied art. The catalogue is available in the museum shop.
Van Gogh & Japan
Mesdag & Japan can be viewed in parallel with Van Gogh & Japan at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. Both exhibitions highlight the influence of Japan and the popularity of japonisme on 19th-century art. The Van Gogh Museum has managed The Mesdag Collection since 1990.
With support of
The exhibition is made possible by the generous support of: