Go behind the scenes at the Legion of Honor as paper conservators prepare and install 37 rare Japanese books for the exhibition Aspects of Mount Fuji in Japanese Illustrated Books from the Arthur Tress Collection.
Hokusai, Untitled (Fuji Seen from Above the Waves), [detail] from the book
One Hundred Views of Fuji, 1835. Collection of Arthur Tress.
Utagawa Hiroshige, Fuji seen through cherry trees, in the book
One Hundred Views of Fuji (Fujimi Hyakuzu), 1859. Collection of Arthur Tress.
The Chinese artist Shi Guorui produced this photograph of the Donner Pass by creating a pinhole camera obscura. The photographic method is just like the oatmeal container pinhole camera you might have made in grade school, but on a much larger scale. The artist put a single small hole in the side of an otherwise light-sealed semi-trailer truck. The light rays passed through this small hole forming an inverted image on a long, curved sheet of sensitized photographic paper. We were told that the artist meditated during the hours-long exposure time.
At 4 feet 2 inches x 17 feet 2 inches, Donner Pass is one of the largest photographs in the Museums’ collection. Due to its unique size, installation required much advanced planning to come up with a method of hanging that was not only safe for the photograph, but also met the visions of the artist and curators. As the artist preferred the immediacy of the uncovered photograph placed directly on the wall, a tailored system of hinging materials and frame installation methods was devised by the paper conservation laboratory to safely meet this vision.
After much preparation, the day of installation had arrived.
Regulars to the permanent galleries at the de Young will notice a new addition to Gallery 23 on the upper gallery level—the anonymous painting titled Robert, Calvin, Martha, and William Scott and Mila, ca. 1843–1845. The painting depicts the children of Reverend William Anderson Scott (1813–1885), a Presbyterian minister in New Orleans from 1842 to 1854. The spire of the First Presbyterian Church where Dr. Scott was pastor is visible at the center of the city’s skyline.
In 2005, Bay Area artist Kay Sekimachi gifted the museum a seminal work, a miniature book—The Wave. The Wave comes from her series of accordion books that were inspired by the Japanese artist Hokusai prints from his own series Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji. Woven in natural linen, Sekimachi used a painted-warp technique to imprint the repetitive pattern of the wave on the book’s covers and pages and a double-weave technique to create the accordion folds. The meditative quality of Sekimachi’s work belies the complexity of her techniques. Her work reflects a combination of influences— from the Japanese aesthetic comes her purity of form and reverence of nature and from her early Bauhaus training the control of geometry and symmetry, as well as, the exploration of the double-weave technique.
Jill D'Alessandro, Curator, Textile Arts