Visions of the Orient, on view April 21 June 18, 2012, features 125 prints and paintings by four women who traveled and lived in Asia between 1900 and 1940.
The exhibition focuses on the work of four artists: Helen Hyde (1868-1919), Bertha Lum (1869-1954), Elizabeth Keith (1887-1956), and Lilian Miller (1895-1943), all of whom trained initially as painters but, while living in Japan, also designed woodblock prints. It suggests shared themes in these artists work: a focus on what they saw as the unchanging Asian traditions; subject matter that emphasized women, children, and romantic landscapes; and a style characterized by lyrical naturalism.
Visions of the Orient is organized by the Pacific Asia Museum with the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
and curated by Dr. Kendall H. Brown, Professor of Asian Art History at California State University, Long Beach. Dr. Brown will lead a Curators Gallery Talk on Sunday, May 6, at 2:00 p.m.
Ever since Japan was opened to the West in 1853, European and American artists began to experiment with Japanese subject matter, styles, techniques, and aesthetics. These appropriations were both an homage to and means of understanding what was known as the exotic Orient. In 1900, Helen Hyde set up residence in Tokyo, becoming the first of four Western female artists to relocate to Japan and make careers presenting Orientalizing imagery to an enthusiastic audience. She was soon followed by Bertha Lum, Elizabeth Keith and Lilian Miller - three artists who worked in conjunction and competition in Tokyo in the 1920s.
The careers of these four remarkable women can be understood in terms of Orientalism, the Western propagation of biased interpretations of Asian cultures and peoples within the context of an unequal power dynamic informed by romanticism and colonialist and imperialist assumptions. By investigating the intersection of American art, East Asia, and the woodblock print movement, Visions of the Orient explores the various ways that the Orient served as a liberating professional space for these female artists and as a place of creative inspiration.
This exhibition has special resonance in Eugene because three of the four artists -- Hyde, Keith, and Lum -- were close personal friends and travel companions of our museum founder, Gertrude Bass Warner (1863-1951). For that reason, any show focusing on their art would likely draw from our enviable holdings, which include not just prints, paintings, and drawings, but also correspondence, tools, and personal effects. It is worth noting that the majority of the works in this exhibition are part of our permanent collection.