Looking East: San Francisco Asian Art Museum – showing through February 7, 2016.

The exhibit, Looking East at the SF Asian Art Museum explores the craze for all things Japanese that changed the course of Western art.

The museum is in the heart of San Francisco’s Civic Center district, opposite City Hall: 200 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102. 415-581-3500. Tues—Sun  10AM—5PM. Closed on Mondays.  Unfortunately, the tickets are expensive ($15-25).  Free on first Sunday of the month, which will be the last day of the exhibit: February 7.

“When Japan opened its port to international trade in the 1850s and emerged from centuries of self-imposed isolation, Japanese prints, albums and objects arrived in Europe and North America in unprecedented quantities. In the frenzy of collecting and admiration that followed, Japanese art caught the eye of designers and artists seeking fresh solutions to artistic problems.


“This exhibit came from Tokyo and makes the final stop of its international tour at the Asian.  It features over 170 artworks and decorative objects from the MFAB’s exquisite collection of Japanese art─the finest in the world outside of Japan─as well as its Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces from painters Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Mary Cassat, Edgar Degas, Paul Gaugin and others.

The novel thing about this exhibition is that the curators have placed Japanese and American and French artworks side by side so that viewers can evaluate how Western artists assimilated these new thematic and formal approaches, making it very engaging for all ages and experience levels, which the Asian excels at.  The exhibition is organized into four thematic areas─ women, city life, nature and landscape─ which explore the hallmarks of Japanese art around the turn of the century.  Dr. Helen Burnham, the MFAB Pamela and Peter Voss Curator of Prints and Drawings, is the head curator, while Dr. Laura Allen, curator of Japanese art, and Dr. Yuki Morishima, assistant curator of Japanese art, are the AAM curators responsible for its installation here in San Francisco.


‘This is the first major exhibition from our collections to examine the profound impact Japanese art and culture had on Western artists around 1900,” said Helen Burnham .  “This was a seminal moment in Western and European art─both artists and collectors came to Japanese art with fresh eyes and a readiness to move past conventions.'” (Art Hound)

Images: Left: “Bamboo Yards, Kyobashi Bridge,” 1857, from the series “One Hundred Famous Views of Edo,” by Utagawa Hiroshige I (Japanese, 1797–1858). Woodblock print; ink and color on paper. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, William Sturgis Bigelow Collection, 11.26350. Right: “The Water Lily Pond,” 1900, by Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926). Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.