The current exhibition at the Hartnell College Gallery celebrates a gift of 19th and 20th century Japanese blue and white porcelain to the Gallery’s Permanent Collection by emeritus faculty members, Mr. Al Schoepf and Dr. Earl Seymour. The collection of this highly prized ware was assembled over several decades from galleries throughout the state. The exhibit also includes examples of other traditional Japanese art at Hartnell, including netsuke--miniature carved toggles--from the Mrs. Leslie Fenton Collection and folk art from the Robert Skiles Collection.
The exhibit, which runs through December 19, contains nearly 50 pieces of 19th and 20th century art.
The combination of smooth white porcelain decorated with cobalt blue lines has a long and venerable history in Asia. High quality cobalt from the Near East first appeared in China in the Yuan Dynasty (1260-1368) and its popularity grew during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) when patterns and techniques were further refined. Attempts to duplicate the fine pure kaolin clay found in natural deposits in China spread through Asia and to Europe. One of the most vital of these offshoots took root in Japan when, in the 1600s, Korean artists working in Japan found deposits of kaolin clay and began production of porcelain decorated with cobalt at Arita, Nabeshima, and Imari on Kyushu Island. The tradition is alive and vigorous in many ceramic centers of Japan today.
The Hartnell collection contains refined pieces that carefully emulate Chinese models, even copying the imperial reign marks of the most famous of the Ching Dynasty emperors. Others show the gradual assimilation of designs expressing more typical Japanese characteristics of strong compositions and bolder brushwork. Two small vessels made for export to Europe or North America reflect the taste and style of the Art Nouveau movement.
The exhibit is free and open to the public. The gallery is in the Visual Arts Building on Hartnell’s main campus. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and from 5 to 8 p.m. on Monday and Wednesday. For information, please contact Gallery Director Gary Smith at 831-755-6791.