A t the end of the 18th century, Sergei Kitaev, as an officer in the tsar's fleet, traveled to Japan a number of times. He not only loved Japan but also loved its art, which he was able to pick up for a song. Most of the pictures he collected were engravings, at the time as accessible to the Japanese as wall calendars are to Russians today.
Eventually, in 1924, his engravings were presented to the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. Since then the museum has radically expanded the collection and now it is considered to be the biggest and the best of its kind in the world. The current exhibition, although only a small part of the whole that numbers around 6,000 engravings and book illustrations, nevertheless provides a valuable insight into the rest of the collection.
At the exhibition one can also see a lot of color engravings from the Japanese art school called "Ukiyo-e." Formed in the middle of the 17th century, it existed for 250 years until the end of the 19th century. "Ukiyo-e" is first of all associated with Buddhism, which claims it means "opposing the vanities of life to a higher reality." Later, the term came to mean "contemporary and modern." Today, it can be translated as "art of daily occurence."
The Hokusai series "36 views of Mount Fuji" are among the most significant pictures there. Hokusai used the traditional and typical method in Japanese art a combination of theme, poetry and calligraphy. In this respect, his work "The moon, persimmon and grasshopper" is of particular interest.
It depicts a dark and curved tree, almost without any leaves, and a big, juicy persimmon hanging from the branch. Only a very careful look will reveal the grasshopper sitting on the fruit. On both sides of picture there are hieroglyphs, giving the composition an allegorical and secret meaning. The composition even has its own legend. What is it? Visit this exhibition and discover it for yourself!
The museum's director, Irina Antonova, explained that the Japanese Tobacco Incorporated, one of the largest tobacco production firms in the world, had donated 70,000 dollars to help the museum create an electronic base for the collection. "It may seem that tobacco has nothing to do with art but JTI's sponsorship has enabled the museum to save and popularize Japanese art," said Antonova.
"Our project is a unique combination of progressive technologies and ancient traditions," added JTI Vice President Khideoda, explaining that projects in St. Petersburg have also benefitted.
Puskin museum of fine art.
12 Volhonka Ul.
Hours: 10 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Cover: 10 to 25 rubles