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In the Japanese manner: Australian prints 1900 –1940

20 May –  Sunday 14 August 2011 | Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, Townsville QLD
Further venues to be announced

Highlights | Listing


image: AB Webb Sunshine and shadow 1923
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1976

AB Webb Sunshine and shadow 1923
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1976
more detail

In the Japanese manner: Australian prints 1900–1940 displays the work of Australian artists inspired by the traditional Japanese woodblock printing art of ukiyo-e. From 2010 to 2011 In the Japanese manner will tour nationally, as part of the National Gallery of Australia’s Travelling Exhibitions Program, to venues in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia, giving regional audiences an opportunity to become acquainted with the unique vision of the early Australian artists who explored this technique.

Europe had embraced Japonisme as early as the 1850s and when, by the 1880s, its influence spread to Australia, the effect on the local art world was revolutionary. Australian artists adapted the radical forms, cropped figures, flat colours and unique compositions that characterised Japanese woodblock printing to form a distinctly Australian aesthetic. Naturally, printmakers also viewed these Japanese woodblocks and by the early 1900s began to adopt the technique and compositional structure. These artists exemplify some of the most well known in Australian art and include Paul Haefliger, Margaret Preston, Thea Proctor, Ethel Spowers, Lionel Lindsay, Violet Teague and Napier Waller.

The subject matter varies between the intimate and the grand. Domestic scenes captured by Ethel Spowers contrast with the sweeping landscapes of A.B. Webb that detail an early 1920s Perth shoreline. The self-portraits and lively Sydney beach vistas by artist Paul Haefliger are accompanied by his arresting Blue Feather from 1932. Other prominent printmakers working in a Japanese style in Sydney included Lionel Lindsay, who was also a passionate collector of Japanese prints and artefacts, and Ethleen Palmer, dubbed ‘the Australian Hokusai’. Her curious Malay squirrels (c.1934) is one of the hidden gems of the NGA’s collection. A number of rare prints by Margaret Preston are featured, interestingly in some cases printed on the readily available rough brown paper used for paper bags as the colour and texture reminded her of fibrous Japanese paper. In Melbourne the artist Helen Ogilvie used a handbook, Lino-cuts, published in London in 1927, as a guide to the technique. The unassuming and delightful Chooks in the Straw (1932) is from that publication.

image: Margaret Preston Margaret Preston Bird of Paradise 1925 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Purchased 1961

Margaret Preston Bird of Paradise 1925
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Purchased 1961
© Margaret Rose Preston Estate. Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia
more detail

Many of these prints have never toured beyond the walls of the NGA: rare works that include, significantly, the earliest print created by an Australian artist in the Japanese manner. This print, Ambrose Patterson’s View over the Thames, evening (1904), displays a soft, tonal view of the river at twilight with St Paul’s cathedral silhouetted against the sky. The unique publication by the Melbourne artist Violet Teague, And so, little Rabbits… (1906) from a Japanese-style bound book of verse entitled Night fall in the ti-tree was exhibited widely and won an award at the First Australian Exhibition of Women’s Work, Melbourne in 1907. An original edition of this book will travel with the exhibition.

In the Japanese manner builds on the successes of the landmark exhibition The Story of Australian Printmaking 1801–2005 held at the NGA in 2007. This exhibition presented the calibre and depth of the NGA’s Australian print holdings—the world’s most comprehensive gathering of works on paper by artists from Australia and the region.  In the Japanese manner will provide audiences across Australia with a fresh and inspiring glimpse of the NGA’s treasures.