FIRST SIGHT (GUIMET ROOM)
This exhibition in Tokyo is an international collaboration between the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Bogotá (a cultural entity of UNIMINUTO), Colombia and the University Museum, the University of Tokyo (UMUT) realized through the Mobilemuseum project, as part of the tenth anniversary celebration of Intermediatheque.
As a Colombian version of the “Orchids Blossom” exhibition series, which focuses on the natural history of orchids, this exhibition introduces a selection of botanical arts made in Colombia from the late 18th to the early 19th century by the botanist Mutis, who led a botanical expedition in Colombia, including that of Cattleya trianae, the current national flower of Colombia, and other orchids that have been rarely introduced in Japan and that are distinctive of the “Mutis style”. Also on display will be colored woodblock prints of Japanese paintings depicting Colombian and other Latin American orchids from A Record of an Orchid Collection, picture prints of foreign orchids cultivated in Kyoto by businessman Kaga Shōtarō, in the first half of the 20th century. The newly acquired collection of UMUT, A Record of an Orchid Collection will be changed periodically during the exhibition period to showcase the diversity of Cattleya trianae and other Colombian cattleyas and their artificial hybrids.
Organizers: The University Museum, the University of Tokyo (UMUT) + Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Bogotá / Entidad cultural de UNIMINUTO
*Four pieces of A Record of an Orchid Collection will be exhibited during each of the following schedules.
1st: 2/7–3/5 (closed 2/20–27), 2nd: 3/7–3/26, 3rd: 3/28–4/23, 4th: 4/25–5/14, 5th: 5/16–6/4
Introduction of Flora de la Real Expedición Botánica del Nuevo Reyno de Granada
The Colombian botanical arts featured in this exhibition were created under the leadership of the Spanish priest and botanist José Celestino Mutis (1732–1808). Mutis traveled to the Spanish colony of the Viceroyalty of New Granada (including present-day Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela) in 1761, and from 1783 led the Royal Botanical Expedition to survey the flora of the vast area. This survey was continued by his disciples after Mutis’s death until 1816.
In the course of this expedition, Mutis hired local artists and taught them Western illustration techniques and had them create botanical arts to illustrate the flora of the Viceroyalty of New Granada. The result was not only a scientific contribution to botany, but also a major influence on the subsequent development of Colombian art, and Mutis’s collection of botanical arts has been characterized as the “Mutis style”. The style is distinguished by an artistic composition that explores the beauty of the plants and the faithful representation of their characteristics, a symmetrical arrangement of the images around a central axis, and a refined technique in the use of red and green colors. The coloring, illuminated in tempera with natural pigments, is one of the elements that emphasizes this style.
Today, the Real Jardín Botánico in Madrid, Spain, holds approximately 16,000 botanical arts of 2,696 species from Mutis’s botanical expedition in Colombia. Sequentially since 1954, with the support of the Spanish and Colombian governments, a large book series, Flora de la Real Expedición Botánica del Nuevo Reyno de Granada (Ediciones Cultura Hispánica) has been published. In this publication project, the collection has been classified according to modern systems of flora and a total of 51 volumes were planned, of which currently 40 volumes have already been issued. The orchids are grouped in five volumes: vol. 7 (1963), vol. 8 (1969), vol. 9 (1985), vol. 10 (1995), and vol. 11 (2000). Vols. 7, 8, and 11 were published in 1,000 copies, and Vols. 9 and 10 in 2,000 copies with issue numbers.
In this Mobilemuseum project, we will exhibit reproductions of Cattleya trianae, a representative flower of Colombia, and botanical arts of other orchids in the Mutis style, which have rarely been introduced in Japan. For this purpose, high-resolution digital data of these books (Biblioteca Digital del Real Jardín Botánico: https://bibdigital.rjb.csic.es) will be used.
Introduction of A Record of an Orchid Collection
A Record of an Orchid Collection was published in 1946 in a limited edition of 300 copies to record the cultivation and artificial breeding of orchids for over 30 years at the greenhouse of businessman Kaga Shōtarō (1888–1954) at his Ōyamazaki Villa in Kyoto, Japan. It is famous as a beautiful large botanical art book containing 104 illustrations.
At the heart of the book are 83 exquisite colored woodblock prints. These are admired and valued as Ukiyo-e, a traditional Japanese woodblock printing craftsmanship. All but one of the preparatory paintings for the woodblock prints were created by the Japanese-style painter Ikeda Zuigetsu (1877–1944). Ikeda was born in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, and was a student of the Kyoto-based Japanese-style painter Konoshima Ōkoku (1877–1938).
This botanical art book in the collection of UMUT was a treasured material of Japanese-style painter Imai Shusen (1930–2023), and was newly acquired as a donation in 2022.
Kaga went to Europe in 1910, and during his stay in London, he was impressed by the orchid culture he saw at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and other places in England. In 1914, he built a greenhouse at his Ōyamazaki Villa, imported original species and superior hybrids, and enthusiastically began orchid cultivation as a lifelong hobby. According to the “Preface to A Record of an Orchid Collection”, a commentary written by Kaga himself and accompanying this botanical art book, orchids cultured at Ōyamazaki Villa were initially imported from England or via England, but as he gained experience, the original species were directly imported from their countries of origin such as Brazil, Colombia, Philippines and Indonesia.
There are 18 illustrations of Latin American orchids in A Record of an Orchid Collection from the descriptions of the slips attached to the illustrations. Of these, five are listed as Colombian on the slip, and four illustrations of three species of Cattleya, Cattleya trianae, Cattleya mendelii, and Cattleya dowiana are found here. The total number of illustrations representing artificial hybrids of Cattleya is 19. Four Cattleya species, the three mentioned above and Cattleya warscewiczii from Colombia are the parents of these hybrids. There are also many new hybrids cultured at the Ōyamazaki Villa included in the illustrations.
In this exhibition, 20 woodblock prints from this collection will be shown in five installments of four prints each. The Mobilemuseum also plans to hold an exhibition in Bogota, where the images of Colombian cattleyas represented in Japan in A Record of an Orchid Collection will be introduced.
Based on the concept of bringing museums out into society, the Mobilemuseum exhibitions have been developed around the world as a project to lead a new networked spatial philosophy developed in different locations around the world as a collaboration by UMUT and various collaborators.
Past Special Exhibition: “Orchids Blossom – Botanical Art Collections from the University of Tokyo”