What first sparked your interest in Japan?
My introduction to Japan was in 1984, when my former husband and I visited the country for business purposes. Immediately, I became captivated by all aspects of Japanese culture, such as architecture, traditional inns and of course art. The idea developed to start collecting modern Japanese woodblock prints, with an emphasis on the Shin hanga (new print) and Sōsaku hanga (creative print) movements of the early 20th century. I have been collecting ever since and in 2009 my private museum Nihon no hanga opened its doors on the Keizersgracht in Amsterdam, where we host bi-annual exhibitions.
How important is the museum in nurturing a better understanding of Japan?
The main goal of Nihon no hanga is to be a place for research and a meeting point for those who are fascinated by the world of 20th century Japanese prints. Since our opening in April 2009, we have created over twenty different exhibitions with prints from our own collection. All exhibits are accompanied by catalogues, created by our curator Maureen de Vries, which contain essays and detailed information about the prints.
In 2016, the most essential works from our collection were shown in Geneva, Switzerland. This exhibition and the accompanying catalogue titled ‘Waves of renewal’ was a collaborative project with prominent print experts from Japan, Australia, and the USA. In the same year there was also the ‘Japan Modern’ exhibition in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. This showcase opened the eyes of many Dutch museumgoers to the world of the modern Japanese print.
In our museum we continue to surprise visitors with the variety that can be found in 20th century Japanese prints. For example, our latest exhibition ‘Memories of Shōwa: Impressions of Working Life by Wada Sanzō’ shows everyday scenes in a style of printmaking that emulates watercolor paintings. Showing woodblocks alongside prints is a significant part of creating awareness of the technical sophistication involved with this art form.
What exhibitions do you have planned for 2021/2022?
In our own museum on the Keizersgracht we are planning to host an exhibition with one of the most popular themes of Japanese prints: snow. The exhibition ‘Snow Country: Japanese Winter Landscapes’ will open later this year, in November.
We are also collaborating with the Museum for East Asian Arts in Cologne, by lending them our series of ‘One Hundred Aspects of the Moon’ by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi. This exhibition will open on 17 September and will run until 9 January 2022.
In December, the first exhibition in the Netherlands dedicated exclusively to Sōsaku hanga (Creative prints) will open at Japan Museum SieboldHuis in Leiden. We are extremely happy with this opportunity to share an overview of this fascinating movement, based on prints from our collection. ‘Hanga: Creative Prints from Japan’ will open on 18 December and will be on view until 13 March 2022.
In 2022, we will also host our own exhibitions in May and November. The themes of these are still a surprise, but they will be appropriate to the seasons.
Why do you think the Dutch-Japanese relationship continues to be so special?
Many artists from our collection are directly inspired by western artists. The individuality and emotional expression in the art of Dutch artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Kees van Dongen en Piet Mondriaan spoke to this new generation of free-thinking Japanese artists. Through their work, they found their own voice. It is important to cherish the connection these artists found with their western counterparts, as this interaction between east and west continues to inspire future generations of Dutch and Japanese printmakers. It is one of our missions to maintain a strong Dutch-Japanese relationship, and I am therefore very thankful the Japanese government honoured me in 2019 with the decoration ‘Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays’ in recognition of contributing to the promotion of Japanese arts in the Netherlands.
What message do you have for our readers on the future of the museum?
The core of the collection will be donated to the Rijksmuseum by the end of 2022. The selection of prints consists of major works from the early 20th century. This gift is to ensure these valuable works will have their forever home in a world-renowned museum, available to anyone with an interest in modern Japanese prints. The prints will be an extension of their current collection of Japanese prints, pulling it into the 20th century. However, Nihon no hanga is planning to continue the work we have done for the past eleven years. The collection is still growing and there are many more exhibitions we wish to share with the public in the coming years.