Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

Exhibition of Masters of Japanese Woodblock Print

Date:January 1913 – February 1913

Place: Prague, Museum of Decorative Art

Conception:Sigismund Bouška


The first comprehensive exhibition of Japanese woodblock prints in the Czech lands took place in January and February 1913 in Prague's Museum of Decorative Arts. A few months later (in June and July), the show moved to Brno-Lužánky. Most of its 685 exhibits came from the collection of the prominent Moravian collector Sigismund Bouška (1867–1942), while other objects were loaned from leading European collectors and experts in Japanese art, such as Julius Kurth, Friedrich Succo, and Prof. Jaekel. This show was preceded by a smaller exhibition of Japanese woodblock prints in Opava, which consisted of artworks from the collection of the painter and printmaker Emil Orlik, a Prague native living in Germany. As part of the show, the museum director Edmund Braun held public lectures on Japanese art.

The press reviews described Bouška’s exhibition as an overview representing all major Japanese artists. Reviewers usually compared Japanese art with the artistic output of China, which was valued higher in this period. They also tended to contrast woodcuts with paintings, a comparison that made Japanese art appear too decorative and superficial. Vincenc Beneš wrote the following on this issue: “Overall, Japan[ese art] appears to be an applied-arts category of Chinese art. This difference becomes clear and complete in the latest phase of Japanese art, the period of woodblock printing, which the present exhibition showcases. The technique developed in Japan in direct association with book publishing. But this method soon spread beyond book production to such an extent that it completely replaced all kinds of painting in Utamaro’s times. The reason behind the technique’s great popularity was its low cost and easy reproduction, demanded by the increasing democratization. Hence the tendency towards both practicality and craftsmanship, the cultivation of handicraft techniques. But any tendency that strays away from the innermost essence of art is dangerous to art and if it prevails over purely artistic aspiration, it causes decline, as clearly evident in this case.” [Beneš 1913, p. 102] In his text, Beneš draws a line between woodblock printing and painting, and even art in general, perceiving the former as a manifestation of low-brow visual culture. Other texts offered a brief overview of the history of woodblock printing, starting with the 17th-century coloured prints, considered more artistically valuable than the later multi-coloured “brocade pictures,” whose technical perfection and inventive design impressed Europeans. Reviewers also mentioned the Western influence on Japanese art from the end of the 18th century onward. In this period, European artifacts and artistic techniques inspired Japanese artists to experiment with realism and mimesis. This tendency is also evident in the work of probably the most famous Japanese artist, Katsushika Hokusai. The exhibition featured his well-known work Manga, in which Hokusai tried various shapes, techniques, and compositions, employing an array of themes, including people and their pastime activities. Figural composition and portraits also appeared in the oeuvre of Tōshūsai Sharaku. In addition, the show presented Hokusai’s students, such as Utagawa Kunisada and Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

This exhibition was of fundamental importance for Czech Japonisme. Its organizers and participating collectors established themselves as prominent experts on Japanese art, while the catalogue and texts by Sigismund Bouška and others laid the foundations of local research into Japanese art, and woodblock print in particular.

Helena Čapková

Works Cited

Beneš 1913: Vincenc Beneš, Japonský dřevoryt. (Výstava v Um. prům. museu v lednu 1913), Umělecký měsíčník II, 1913, no 3, pp. 101–103

Further Reading

Markéta Hánová, Páter Sigismund Bouška (1867–1942): sběratelskou vášní ke znalectví, in: eadem, Japonské dřevořezy a jejich sběratelé v českých zemích, Praha 2019, pp. 104–139

Filip SuchomelAsie a Katolická moderna, in: Roman Musil - Aleš Filip (edd.), Zajatci hvězd a snů. Katolická moderna a její časopis Nový život (1896-1907), Praha – Brno 2000.

Exhibiting authors
Exhibition of Masters of Japanese Woodblock Print
Technique: paper, lithograph, 95 x 64 cm
Owner: Moravian Gallery Brno

Japanese Woodblock Prints


Publisher: Friends of Art Club in Brno

Place and year of publication: Brno 1913

Author/s of the introduction:Bouška Sigismund




Reviews in the press
Beneš Vincenc

Vincenc Beneš, Japonský dřevoryt. (Výstava v Um. prům. museu v lednu 1913), Umělecký měsíčník II, 1913, no. 3, pp. 101–103 


E. P., Výstava starého dřevořezu japonského, Dílo XI, 1913, p. 71


–n., Japonský dřevoryt I–III, Lidové noviny XXI, 1913, no. 91, 4. 4., s. 1–2; no. 147, 13. 5., pp. 1–2; no. 161, 14. 6., pp. 1–3

Špála Václav

Václav Špála, Povaha japonského umění, Volné směry XVII, 1913, pp. 83–85


Trojanus, Japonská hostina, Čech XXXVIII, 1913, no. 30, 31. 1., pp. 1–2

Brief notes about the exhibition

Anonymous author, Přednáška, Čech XXXVIII, 1913, č. 18, 19. 1., s. 6

Anonymous author, Austellung des alten japanischen Meisterholzschnittes, Prager Abendblatt XXXVII, 1913, č. 17, 22. 1., s. 3

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