The wide-ranging double exhibition at the Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck shows the remarkable influence of Japanese culture on western art from the Impressionists through the present. The exhibition is being presented on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration (1868–1912). After 200 years of isolation Japan opened itself to the West, which was subsequently flooded by previously unknown artistic objects from the island nation. This led in turn to an aesthetic revolution in the western world and painting, paving the way for modernism.
The exhibition's point of departure is the collection of Japanese colour woodcuts of the Impressionist painter Claude Monet. A comprehensive selection of these will be shown for the first time outside of France. Masterworks by Monet, Signac, Seurat, van Gogh and others demonstrate the major influence that Japan had on the late 19th-century art scene. Representations of the interiors of artist studios from Vallotton to Ensor provide evidence of the "Japanese fever" with objects from the Far East and sensual "Geisha" models in kimonos. Yet the most enduring and revolutionary influence that Japan had on Europe is in the observation of nature. Our perception was broadened and enhanced and our attention was drawn to our surroundings and the beauty of detail. Daring natural views, high horizons, surprising close-ups and the directness of the moment shaped many landscapes and still lifes, from Monet and Caillebotte to Signac and van Gogh.
That Japanese fever is not just a phenomenon of the 19th century becomes evident in the section of the exhibition in the Bahnhof Rolandseck's historical rooms. This is linked to the Kunstkammer Rau, as motif traditions and lines of development have continued through the present. It becomes quite clear that Japan's inspiration continues to be an essential element of everyday western visual culture and of global popular culture as well: manga, which to some extent emerged from the tradition of Japanese woodcuts, are as wide-ranging and diverse as anime, which since the 1970s and such productions as Biene Maja and Heidi have captured German children's hearts and now are closely related to the fantasy genre. In a cosplay (costume play), beloved manga and anime characters will be brought to life, turning the Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck into a colourful fantasy world.
The comic made especially for the exhibition by the artist Christina S. Zhu (Pummelpanda) makes for an exceptional highlight. The story takes visitors through the tunnel connecting the old and new structures, thus establishing a pictorial link between the different parts of the exhibition. The architecture of Richard Meier provides a breathtaking backdrop for a wild, fantastic chase.