Ukiyo-e and the Canterbury Museum
Thesis DisciplineArt History
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The text investigates the history of the Canterbury Museum’s collection of Japanese ukiyo-e prints and paintings focusing mainly on four major contributors: Sir Joseph Kinsey (1852-1936), Frances May Bailey (c.1891-1967), Greggory Kane (1921-1978) and Ronald J Scarlett (1911-2002). The images are set in the context of the ‘floating world’ (ukiyo). The introduction examines the early directors of the Museum and how their interests and policies influenced the collections. The method of grading the prints and the process by which the data base was formed are explained. Chapter One examines the way New Zealand was influenced by a growing interest in Japan during the early twentieth century, the effects of Japanese activity in the Pacific and the way the collectors responded. It also looks at the local cultural context in which the collectors acquired and exhibited their works. Exhibitions of Japanese and Chinese art occurred in 1935 and 1952 in Christchurch; such events widened the knowledge and aesthetic appreciation of Asian art. Chapter Two considers the subjects, scope, and range of ukiyo-e art and the artists represented in the Museum’s collection. It looks at the condition of the images, how they were made, the formats used, and whether they were printed from original or recut blocks. Japanese Government censorship and works of particular interest are discussed. Comparisons are made with the Dunedin Public Art Gallery’s and Auckland Art Gallery’s collections. Works by major artists including Hiroshige (1797-1858), Hokusai (1760-1849), Eizan (1787-1867), Eishi (1756-1829), Chikanobu (1838-1912), Toyokuni I (1769-1825), Kunisada (1786-1864) and Kuniyoshi (1798-1861) are evaluated. By reconstructing the collections of Japanese art in the Museum, the chapter reveals the collectors’ diverse interests and individual preferences. The research presented in this discussion stems from an extensive study of the 427 images in the collection and is supported by an illustrated database of all the Museum’s ukiyo-e works.