Monday, 30 January 2017

#Silver50 Object: 'Some Japanese Flowers' by Kazumasa Ogowa

As we continue to showcase the Silver Studio Collection held by MoDA, and its many uses over the last 50 years, this week's #Silver50 object is 'Some Japanese Flowers', one of three rare, intact, bound volumes of  Kazumasa Ogowa's collotypes stored in MoDA's Silver Studio Archive Collection.

Photograph of an Iris from Some Japanese Flowers
All of the Ogowa volumes were sewn in the Japanese style for the European market in the late nineteenth century, or meiji period. This was a time when trading with Japan became possible and had a significant impact on artistic production in that period. For more information on this, visit The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Timeline of Art History on Japonisme.

Ogowa was a pioneer of the collotype reprographic technique for mass produced photographic images. Our edition of Some Japanese Flowers contains monochrome collotypes, but the publisher also developed a colour collotype method which he used to produce a deluxe version of the volume. One edition of that is owned by the Getty Museum in the US. The Getty Conservation Institute has done an in depth study of the collotypes in its collection, and the museum also republished their own version of 'Some Japanese Flowers. Photographs by Kazumasa Ogowa' for sale commercially.


SD5653, peony design for printed textile next to Tree peony from Ogowa's Some Japanese Flowers

It is easy to see why this particular volume would have been desirable to have to hand for Silver Studio designers creating interior fabrics for a contemporary domestic market intrigued by Japanese style and exotic botanicals. In fact, the influence of these images seems to have stood the test of time in the work of current interior designers who still market fabrics using the iconic Ogawa illustrations from 'Some Japanese Flowers' commercially. Check out the V&A shop amongst others.

The appeal of Japanese botanical art has also endured in Europe and is currently being explored in the
‘Flora Japonica’ Exhibition at Kew Gardens, on until March 5, 2017. The role of photography in botanical illustration is also considered in an on-line video on the exhibition website.

Related publications that may be of interest:
Early Japanese images, Terry Bennett, 1996.
Encyclopaedia of 19th Century photography, John Hannavy, 2013.

MoDA's volumes are referenced in the following publications:
Decorative Arts Society Journal 36 - The Silver Studio Art Reference Collection,  Zoe Hendon, 2012.

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