Meiji artists proved that silk threads could be a perfect artistic media, and they are given their due in this stunning presentation of textile art. Less well known than the Japanese kimono, for instance, these ornamental textiles are no less spectacular. Threads of Silk and Gold Ornamental Textiles from Meiji Japan presents 40 of these works. The publication is the companion piece to a special exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, the University of Oxford, and highlights the revival of interest in the subject. Here are embroideries, sophisticated resist-dyed silk and velvet panels, grand tapestries, and appliqué works from the collection of the Kiyomizu-Sannenzaka Museum in Kyoto, as well as those from the Ashmolean's own holdings.
The makers of Meiji textiles sought to modernize traditional modes of visual representation in aspiring to create their thread paintings. Works were produced for Western tastes and this audience was entranced with the innovative designs and brilliant craftsmanship. The textiles range in size from large-scale wall hangings and folding screens to small panels in western-style picture frames. They became some of Japan's best-known export items: no fashionable Victorian home was without its Japanese hangings; they were displayed to great acclaim at international exhibitions and often presented as diplomatic gifts from the Japanese imperial household and government. Sometimes they replicated specific western pictures. More often, they collaborated with contemporary Japanese painters to create dazzling new images that more than ever before realized the aesthetic potential of silk thread as an artistic medium.
The Meiji (1868-1912) was the famous period of 'Japonisme', which saw the European Impressionist painters exploring themes and styles taken from Japanese art, and Victorian rooms filled with Japanese decorative arts and crafts.
As well as prints, ceramics, lacquerware and metalwork, Japanese artists produced embroideries, sophisticated resist-dyed silk and velvet panels, grand tapestries, and appliqué work.