June 3 - Sept. 12, 2010
By JoAnn Greco
Showcasing highlights of the private collection of Torontonians Bill and Molly Anne Macdonald — which is currently in the process of being donated to the Gardiner — this comprehensive exhibit examines the role of Japanese porcelain in the Edo (1603-1868) court, as well as its influences and eventual influence.
This extremely productive era found its beginnings in the great prominence attached to Chinese and Korean, as well as Dutch (Holland being the only foreign nation during this period allowed to retain a presence in Japan) porcelain. Lacking its own ceramic industry, Japan undertook its own effort at creating one. When it did so, it naturally looked to these popular predecessors, borrowing motifs from the Chinese, and the familiar blue-and-white color schemes of Dutch Delftware.
Eventually a Japanese porcelain industry did thrive, settling around Arita on the southwestern island of Kyushu. The rest of the exhibit — rich in censers, plates, and enameled vases — is devoted to exploring the development and dominance of this new business. The Japanese crafted their own styles and methods — primarily the more densely-patterned imari and the more elegantly simple kakiemon. Soon enough, these works became so popular that they were being imitated by Europeans — including, ironically, the Dutch.
In addition to these pieces — so many of which remain strikingly modern — the exhibit also includes woodblock prints, textiles and lacquers, juxtaposing these items with porcelains carrying similar themes.
For more information: The Gardiner Museum