PARIS.- To celebrate one hundred and fifty years of diplomatic relations between France and Japan, the Musée d'Orsay presents a collection of decorative pieces particularly representative of the artistic relationships that united the two countries during the second half of the 19th century.
Pride of place is given to two famous undertakings by the crystal and ceramics manufacturer, François-Eugène Rousseau (1827-1890) the dinner set decorated respectively in 1866 by the painter and engraver Félix Bracquemond (1833-1914) and in 1873, by the porcelain painter Henri Lambert (1836-1909); and the production by the ceramics manufacturer Creil & Montereau. Over the years, the Musée dOrsay has acquired many pieces of Rousseaus dinner set. Its decoration, one of the best examples of Japanism in western ceramics, is based on animal and plant motifs from the prints of the great masters of Ukiyo (scenes from the floating world), particularly Hokusai and Hiroshige. The set was phenomenally successful. It was presented at successive Universal Exhibitions in Paris in 1867, 1878 and 1889, and was still in production in the 1930s under various company names. In 1873, possibly at the request of Parisian jeweller Frédéric Boucheron (1830-1902), Rousseau commissioned another set from Henri Lambert. The decorative concept was radically different; firstly, the animal motifs were no longer isolated as on the previous set, but placed in their natural setting, and secondly, many plates featured landscapes, inhabited or otherwise. Moreover, there was an unusually wide range of sources of inspiration with references to the work of artists like Kuniyoshi, Bairei and Kyosai. Unlike the Bracquemond set, where the decoration was done by transfer printing, this was hand painted, and consequently more expensive, and produced in a limited edition.
In the 1860s, Japan moved into a new era, coming out of its isolation, and opening up to the West. France now saw an image of Japan through its works of art. Many people avidly collected Japanese prints, and the term Japanism was created to describe this fashion.
Joseph Rousseau produced sets of plates made from faïence and in porcelain, decorated with animals and plants, directly inspired by images from the Land of the Rising Sun.
In the workshop the children take a set and illustrate traditional Japanese animal stories. A manga is created, with each child painting an image on porcelain, linked to an episode in the story.
This exhibition has been curated by Philippe Thiébaut. Chief curator, Musée d'Orsay