AWASH IN COLOR: FRENCH AND JAPANESE PRINTS On View at University of Chicago's Smart Museum of Art, 10/4-1/20

AWASH IN COLOR: FRENCH AND JAPANESE PRINTS On View at University of Chicago's Smart Museum of Art, 10/4-1/20

The University of Chicago's Smart Museum of Art presents Awash in Color: French and Japanese Prints, a new exhibition that examines the distinct yet overlapping traditions of color printmaking in France and Japan. On view from October 4, 2012 to January 20, 2013, the exhibition presents more than one hundred and thirty exquisite prints and illustrated books from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries. Along with well-known posters by Toulouse-Lautrec and iconic ukyio-e "images of the floating world," featured objects also include virtuoso color intaglio prints made before the French Revolution and boldly colored Japanese prints that took advantage of chemical dyes imported from Europe.

With these breathtaking works—drawn from the Smart's substantial holdings as well as major public and private collections across the country—Awash in Color weaves a dual history, touching on the social structures, commercial forces, and technological innovations that helped to shape color printmaking in both cultures. Together with an accompanying catalogue, the exhibition adds breadth and depth to our understanding of one of the most fruitful artistic exchanges between East and West.

Awash in Color is curated by Chelsea Foxwell, Assistant Professor of Art History at The University of Chicago, and Anne Leonard, Smart Museum Curator and Associate Director of Academic Initiatives.

The rise of color printmaking in France in the late nineteenth century is often attributed to a fascination with Japanese woodblock prints, which began to circulate in great numbers after the opening of Japan in 1854. But a closer look at the history of color printmaking in these two cultures reveals that the story is not so simple. Parallel traditions were flourishing in both France and Japan well before 1854. And, when the two cultures met, the channels of technical and aesthetic influence flowed in both directions, not merely from East to West.

"By bringing together a selection of color prints from each culture over the course of two centuries, we hope to demonstrate how viewers in each locale became accustomed to a certain range of techniques and palettes that would then be challenged by the rapid influx of prints from the other side of the world in the latter half of the nineteenth century," explain exhibition curators Chelsea Foxwell and Anne Leonard.

Awash in Color is organized into multiple sections that detail the parallel and intersecting developments in color printmaking in France and Japan from 1700 to 1915. This organization emphasizes a comparative approach to each tradition, allowing visitors to explore broad patterns of patronage; differences in woodblock, intaglio, and lithographic techniques; and anxiety over the development of automated commercial processes that were a harbinger of a new modern age.

In organizing the exhibition, the curators sought out the freshest, most well-preserved color prints available, drawing on the Smart's substantial holdings as well as major private and public collections such as the Art Institute of Chicago; Boston Public Library; Brooklyn Museum; Minneapolis Institute of Arts; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Gallery of Art, Washington; National Museum of American History; New York Public Library; Spencer Museum of Art; and University of Chicago Library.

The works on view reveal an astonishing variety of color palettes—from early woodcuts that were hand painted with vegetable dyes to later prints saturated with brilliant aniline colors. The exhibition likewise presents a tremendous range of subject matters, reflecting changes in the social landscape. Visitors will encounter prints depicting actors and the theater, beautiful women, landscapes, cityscapes, nobility, commoners, still life, botanicals, biblical stories, Parisian nightspots, and more.

Many public programs will accompany the exhibition. Unless noted, all programs are free and open to the public and take place at the Smart Museum of Art. The public may register for lectures and workshops at

Saturday, October 20, 7 p.m.
Lecture and Recital: Claude Debussy and the Visual Arts
Logan Center for the Arts, The University of Chicago, 915 E. 60th Street

Acclaimed pianist François Chaplin performs keyboard works of the great French composer Claude Debussy, who sought to bridge Asian and Western aesthetics and pushed visual ideas into the realm of musical expression. Before the concert, Gurminder Bhogal—a musicologist and professor at Wellesley College—will discuss the significance of ornamentation in the work of Debussy and his contemporaries, including Maurice Ravel and Gabriel Fauré. The lecture is at 7 p.m., with the recital to follow at 8 p.m.

Tickets: $10 / free for Smart Partners and UChicago students. The lecture is free. For tickets, visit or call 773.702.ARTS.

Presented in collaboration with the University of Chicago's Department of Music in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Claude Debussy's birth. This program is made possible with generous support from the France Chicago Center, the Department of Music, and the Department of Art History, as well as Mrs. Betty Guttman.

Saturday, November 3, 1–4 p.m.
Family Day: Cool Collages!

Get inspired by color prints and create your own beautiful designs on paper. Experiment with space, shape, and pattern while making stencils. Then take part in an artist-led collage workshop.

All materials provided. Activities are best for kids ages 4–12, accompanied by an adult.

Friday, November 16, 7 p.m.
Yasuko Yokoshi: Bell, a work in progress
Logan Center for the Arts, The University of Chicago, 915 E. 60th Street

Get a sneak peak at a compelling new dance-theater work-in-progress by choreographer Yasuko Yokoshi and an international ensemble of musicians and dancers. Developed in part during an artistic residency at the University of Chicago, Bell reimagines one of the most important and difficult works in the classical Japanese kabuki theater repertoire, Kyoganoko Musume-Dojoji (A Woman and a Bell at the Dojoji Temple).

Presented in collaboration with the Committee on Japanese Studies at the Center for East Asian Studies.

Friday, November 30, noon
Lunch-hour Talk: "Marketing Beauty: Reading Pictures of the Yoshiwara Courtesans in Context"

Discover how ukiyo-e images helped to celebrate, evaluate, and market the pleasure district of Edo (Tokyo) during this lunch-hour lecture by Julie Nelson Davis, an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Space is limited. Please register in advance at

Sunday, January 20, 2 p.m.
Curator Tour: Awash in Color

Explore the exquisite French and Japanese color prints on view during a lively closing-day tour of Awash in Color with curators Chelsea Foxwell and Anne Leonard.

Space is limited. Please register in advance at

As the art museum of the University of Chicago, the Smart Museum of Art is home to acclaimed special exhibitions and a Permanent Collection that spans five thousand years of artistic creation. Working in close collaboration with scholars from the University of Chicago, the Smart has established itself as a leading academic art museum and an engine of adventurous thinking about the visual arts and their place in society.

Picture: Henri Rivière, Vegetable Garden at Ville-Hue (Saint-Briac), 1890, From the Breton Landscapes, Color woodblock print printed from eight blocks on eighteenth-century Japanese laid paper. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Paul and Miriam Kirkley Fund for Acquisitions, 2006.12.