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Taking sheer pleasure in the art of Japan
2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the English artist and William Morris apprentice Frank Brangwyn RA (1867-1956). The William Morris Gallery is marking the occasion with an exhibition entitled Sheer Pleasure – Frank Brangwyn and the Art of Japan, which examines Brangwyn's love of Japanese art and his collaborative work with Japanese artists.
The collection of Japanese prints and paintings, donated to the gallery by Brangwyn, have rarely been displayed and include woodblock prints by Utagawa Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai and a carefully restored decorative screen.
Frank Brangwyn, Swans, c.1921.
During the 1910s, Brangwyn met the Japanese artist Yoshijiro Urushibara (1888-1953) in London, which led to collaborative printmaking projects, combining Brangwyn's exuberant style with the subtle and distinctive techniques of Japanese printmaking. The exhibition looks at their sketches, notes and key block prints, and displays some of their most successful collaborations, such as The Devil’s Bridge and the Bruges series. It also looks at Brangwyn’s relationship with his patron Kojiro Mutsakata, and their ill-fated plans to create an art gallery in Tokyo.
Yoshijiro Urushibara after Frank Brangwyn, Devil’s Bridge, St Gothard’s pass, c.1924
To complement the exhibition, painter and printmaker Rebecca Salter RA will be displaying her own work. A graduate of the Kyoto City University of the Arts and a resident of the country for six years, Salter studied the art of Japanese woodblock printing extensively, and creates prints in collaboration with the Sato Woodblock Workshop in Kyoto, one of a few surviving in an industry in slow decline.