I'll start off by saying that The Cult of Beauty: The Aesthetic Movement 1860-1900, on at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London until the 17th July, is a wonderful exhibition and very much worth a visit, especially if you're interested in Japonisme (or Chinoiserie). It offers a splendid opportunity to experience just how far reaching the influence of Japanese art and design was in Britain during the second half of the nineteenth century (inspired by the display of Japanese decorative art at the London International Exhibition of 1862). By focusing on the house beautiful and every decorative item that might have gone into it, rather than paintings in isolation, you're able to really get a feel for the atmosphere that would have existed inside the homes that housed the objects on display.
Tissot's Young Women Looking at Japanese Articles, for example, is hung above an ornate fireplace surround, not far from the beautiful folding screen pictured below. You're not in a gallery; you're in someone's front room. Nearby, you find yourself peeping into a bedroom... Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s at Tudor House in Chelsea, to be exact; looking through small slots in the surrounding wall allows you to peep inside the softly lit space of the room and examine his blue & whites and Chinese furniture.
Folding screen, designed by William Eden Nesfield and made by
James Forsyth in 1867. Given to Agnes and Richard Norman Shaw
as a wedding present in 1867. It includes Japanese painted
panels from the late 18th - early 19th century.
Victoria & Albert Museum.
The exhibition brings together painting, sculpture, furniture, design, photography and fashion; there's a very lovely kimono on display (which, unfortunately, I've not been able to get a photo of). It also includes some very attractive books from Stephen Calloway's collection, with gold-blocked decoration on the covers, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, that was inspired by Japanese design.
Also in the exhibition is an installation that enables you to view Whistler's Peacock Room by means of a 360-degree digital recreation projected onto a huge enclosure of curved screens. Obviously, such a set piece can't capture the vibrant colours and golds of the actual room (which is housed in the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., and for obvious reasons couldn't be shipped over for the exhibition!), but it gives a good idea of what it would be like to be enclosed within an Aesthetic interior.
Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room, by James McNeill Whistler, 1876-78, incorporating La Princesse du Pays de la Porcelaine, 1863-64.
Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.
The show is on at the V&A until the 17th July, then it travels to Paris, to the Musée D'Orsay, where it runs from the 13th September 2011 until the 15th January 2012. It then moves on to the United States and will be on at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco from the 18th February 'til the 17th June 2012.
NB - The book that accompanies the exhibition is not a catalogue of the contents of it; it includes objects that aren't part of the exhibition and doesn't include every object that is part of it, which is something of a pity.