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A World of Things by Kamisaka Sekka (1866–1942)

April 14, 2007–July 1, 2007
Gallery 107

Kamisaka Sekka's three-volumes of woodblock prints called A World of Things (Momoyogusa) is the career-defining masterpiece of the greatest 20th-century Japanese designer. The Japanese name of the series can first be found in the eight-century poetic text Collection of Leaves from the Ages (Man'yôshû), which refers to a multi-leaved autumnal herb (momoyogusa), possibly a chrysanthemum or wormwood. Aptly named, the volumes’ many pages contain a variety of images that include traditional themes updated with Sekka's bold design, use of bright aniline colors, and sense of humor.

Sekka was born when Japan was emerging on the world stage and redefining itself in the face of the West. Centuries-old schools of art, such as the decorative Rimpa style with its quintessential Japanese literary and seasonal themes, had become unfashionable. To help keep the country's unique artistic culture afloat, the government established a policy to upgrade the status of traditional artists that encouraged them to infuse their craft with a dose of modernism. Consequently, in 1910 Sekka was sent abroad to Glasgow, where he was heavily influenced by Art Nouveau. He came home to teach at the newly opened Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts. Thanks to Sekka, the Rimpa tradition remains a signature of Kyoto design to this day.

Kamisaka Sekka. Spring Herbs, from the series "A Worlds of Things (Momoyogusa)," Meiji period, 1909-10. Mr. and Mrs. Hubert Fischer Fund.