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Japanese Prints and Ivories Tell a Story of Collecting at Carnegie Museum of Art

Released: January 10, 2013

Exhibition explores influence of industrialist H. J. Heinz and poet Sadakichi Hartmann

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania…An exhibition of two rarely-seen Japanese collections from the early years of Carnegie Institute (now Museums of Art and Natural History) will capture the excitement and intrigue surrounding the museums' first encounters with these exquisite objects. Opening in Gallery One at Carnegie Museum of Art, "Japan Is the Key…": Collecting Prints and Ivories, 1900–1920 traces the development of these collections through the two larger-than-life men responsible for Carnegie Institute's ambitious exhibitions of Japanese art in the first decade of the 20th century. By re-examining the museum of art's masterwork prints, including works by Hiroshige, Hokusai, and Utamaro, along with the museum of natural history's delicate, dynamic ivories, this exhibition allows for exciting new building-wide collaborations in object research and conservation, as well as a new look into institutional history.

Sadakichi Hartmann and H. J. Heinz were vastly different men, united by a common fascination with Japan at the turn-of-the-century. Hartmann was a poet and critic of Japanese-German parentage. Flamboyant, waspishly brilliant, and an exponent of modernism and japonisme, Hartmann seems to have masterminded the Carnegie Institute Department of Fine Arts's controversial early exhibitions of Japanese prints and avant-garde photography. Heinz, a pillar of industrial America, visited Japan through his business engagements and his commitment to Christian ministry work, loaning his rapidly growing collection of ivory carvings to Carnegie Institute in 1910. Both left a legacy in the collections of the Institute, now Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, and linked Pittsburgh to an international discourse on Japan's rapidly growing cultural and economic impact.

"Japan is the Key…" presents highlights from these significant collections of rare prints (ukiyo-e) and ivories (okimono). Now spread between both museums, these artworks tell the stories of two personalities, each fascinated by the emerging cultural and aesthetic dialogue between Japan and the West. Both understood that 19th- and early 20th-century Japanese arts combined historic Asian traditions and avant-garde Western ideas in ways that could predict or shape the 20th century. Both also grasped that this exchange affected more than aesthetic tastes, it affected world culture.

As forward-thinking as these men were about the ways that Japanese art would shape modern art movements, their assessments of artworks were often just plain wrong. Hartmann approached his collecting activities with enthusiasm and high ideals, but he did not possess the specialist knowledge to acquire truly great examples of the art form. It was not until 1917 that the Institute learned this, when Kojiro Tomita, a Japan expert from the Boston Museum of Fine Arts visited the museum, and pointed out that a substantial amount of these purchases were second-rate re-strikes. Department of Fine Arts director John Beatty destroyed these prints. He had already hired Edward Duff Balken as the museum's first curator of prints and drawings, and Balken corrected course, purchasing dozens of important masterwork prints in 1916 and 1918. "Japan is the Key…" will showcase the museums' most beautiful objects from this period, and tell the story of Pittsburgh's early encounters with a newly-opened Japan. The exhibition also presents an opportunity to research, conserve, and re-connect the print and ivory collections, now dispersed across the two museums, including a colossal ivory eagle, which was a visitor favorite for decades.

The exhibition opens March 30, 2013 in Gallery One of the museum's Scaife Galleries.

For a selection of high-resolution images from the exhibition, please contact:


Important works on view include:

 South Wind, Clear Dawn 

Katsushika Hokusai Japanese, 1760–1849; Yohachi Nishimuraya, publisher; South Wind, Clear Dawn (Gaifu kaisei), c. 1830-1831 woodcut on paper Purchase, 18.14.7

This spare and dramatic image of Mount Fuji is a later, rare, alternate state of Hokusai’s Red Fuji, one of the most famous ukiyo-e landscapes. Printed in a limited range of blues, black, and gray, it epitomizes the aesthetic relationship between traditional Japanese art and modern abstraction.

Japanese; Long Procession of Toads; carved ivory

A skilled carver has transformed a single tusk of ivory into a lively parade of frogs/toads satirizing a Japanese warlord and his retainers on the move. Recent cleaning has revealed fascinating details, including a hammock full of baby amphibians slung between some marchers and the national flag with its central sun symbol colored with red pigment.

Hiroshige Andô Japanese, 1797–1858; Taheiji Okasawaya, publisher; A Night View of the Eight Famous Places in Kanazawa in Musashino Prefecture, (Buyô Kanazawa hassho yakei), 1857; woodcut on paper; triptych Purchase, 18.14.10

A Night View of the Eight Famous Places in Kanazawa in Musashino Prefecture
Hiroshige exploits the panoramic format of the triptych (three vertical prints side by side) to create one of the few pure landscapes in the history of traditional Japanese printmaking. Despite the realism of the scene, the artist’s emphasis on the province’s eight famous places relates to a centuries-old theme from Chinese poetry.

Utamaro Kitagawa Japanese, 1754–1806; Chusuke Yamaguchiya, publisher; Enjoying the evening cool on the banks of the Sumida river, 1795-1796; woodcut on paper (triptych)
Purchase, 18.14.4

As a printmaker, Utamaro is renowned for his graceful line and refined, delicate coloring. The latter is on full display in this triptych with its unusual color scheme dominated by black, gray and rose. The former lent itself to the representation of the famous beauties, geisha, of Edo’s notorious Yoshiwara district. Utamaro’s elegant women set new standards for feminine appearance and behavior when they were popularized in Europe and the United States in the late 19th century.



Support for "Japan is the Key…" has been provided by The Japan Foundation, New York, and by Lila Penchansky and Daniel Russell. General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


Carnegie Museum of Art

Located at 4400 Forbes Avenue in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art was founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, it is nationally and internationally recognized for its distinguished collection of American and European works from the 16th century to the present. The Heinz Architectural Center, part of Carnegie Museum of Art, is dedicated to enhancing understanding of the physical environment through its exhibitions, collections, and public programs. For more information about Carnegie Museum of Art, call 412.622.3131 or visit our Web site at


Additional Research

Louise Lippincott, Curator of Fine Art, and Akemi May, Curatorial Assistant, Fine Art undertook several months of archival research in assembling "Japan is the Key…" Collecting Prints and Ivories, 1900-1920. Here are some of the people and events that brought these collections to Carnegie Institute.

Cast of Characters

Ernest Fenollosa (1853–1908)
Harvard educated professor, curator and writer who lived in Japan 1878–1890, where he studied and collected traditional Japanese art. His vision of a new world culture created from a fusion of eastern and western civilizations stimulated the collection, appreciation, and imitation of Japanese art, literature, and religion in the 20th century, and his writings were very influential with Pittsburgh collectors H.J. Heinz and Sadakichi Hartmann.

H. J. Heinz (1844–1919)
Pittsburgh business magnate, Henry J. Heinz was an avid collector of intricately detailed carvings in ivory and wood, antique pocket watches, and embroidered textiles. Heinz first traveled to Japan in 1902, donating a small collection of printed material to the Carnegie Museum (now Carnegie Museum of Natural History). In 1913, Heinz loaned his entire collection of ivory carvings, primarily Japanese, to exhibit while he traveled throughout Asia and the Pacific as a representative of the Sunday School Movement. Named Honorary Curator of Textiles, Time Pieces, and Ivory Carvings in 1914, Heinz continued to care for his possessions on public display and further augment the Heinz Collection through a series of gifts and loans until his death in 1919.

Sadakichi Hartmann (1867–1944)
A poet and critic of German-Japanese descent, Hartmann was active in Pittsburgh c. 1904–1906 as an assistant to John Beatty, director of Carnegie Institute’s department of fine arts. He was instrumental in launching the Institute’s exhibitions of art photography and its collections of American drawings and Japanese prints. Prints from his collection and the collection of a "Mr. Brown" exhibited in 1905 and purchased in 1906 turned out to be fakes or late editions; most were destroyed by a furious John Beatty. However, Hartmann was an eloquent writer on Japanese art and his observations are quoted extensively throughout this exhibition.

Kojiro Tomita (1890–1976)
A native of Japan, Tomita was invited by Okakura Kakuzō, close friend of Fenellosa, to join the staff of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 1908. He became Assistant Curator of the Asiatic Department in 1916 and served as Curator from 1931 to 1963. Tomita first came to Pittsburgh in 1916 to divide the netsuke collection of Lydia S. Hays amongst the Carnegie Museums and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He returned in 1917 to evaluate the Japanese print collection of the Fine Arts Department and gave a talk, “Child Life in Japan,” wearing traditional Japanese dress.

O. N. Onslow (d. 1924)
A mysterious collector based in San Francisco, probably an associate of Sadakichi Hartmann. In 1906 he sent a trunk of Japanese prints to Carnegie Institute. The Institute paid the delivery charges and exhibited some of the prints in 1907. Efforts to return the prints were delayed by the San Francisco earthquake of 1908. In 1917 the Institute returned the trunk to San Francisco, retaining 5 prints for the collection as compensation for shipping costs. At the time of his death, Onslow was rumored to be the missing Arch Duke Johann Salvator of Austria.

Edward Duff Balken (1874–1960)
Balken was a collector of rare books, prints and drawings, and American folk art. In 1915 he accepted a part time position as curator of prints in the Department of Fine Arts which he retained until 1940. During his tenure, inferior works were removed from the collection, and professional standards for collecting and displaying Japanese prints were instituted.

Judson D. Metzgar (1869–1958)
A probate attorney in Moline, Illinois, Metzgar formed one of the best private collections of Japanese ukiyo-e prints in the United States. Arthur Davison Ficke, a lawyer, poet, and son of a Japanese print dealer, collaborated with him. The Carnegie bought extensively at the sale of his collection in New York in 1916. His insightful memoir Adventures in Japanese Prints (1944) describes his growth as a connoisseur and collector.

Yamanaka & Company (founded 1895)
A Japanese art trading company established in New York City in 1895, with outposts in Boston, London, Paris, Beijing, and Chicago. A major supplier of Japanese and later Chinese art and artifacts to American and European museums and collectors until World War II, Yamanaka & Co. was a source of Japanese art for Carnegie Institute in 1918-1919.

Japanese collection chronology

H. J. Heinz’s first trip to China and Japan with his son as unofficial representative of a Mission board, and his first exposure to Asian ivory carvings. Heinz joins the International Sunday School Association; in report to International Association at Denver convention he states “Japan is the key to the Orient…”.

Sadakichi Hartmann published a book on Japanese art.

Sadakichi Hartmann becomes assistant to director John Beatty to form collection of American drawings. In December, the Department of Fine Arts exhibits 95 Japanese prints from his collection under the auspices of Pittsburgh Art Society.

In February, a collection of Japanese objects is offered for purchase arrives from Dr. Olaf N. Orlow, San Francisco, via Sadakichi Hartmann; negotiations delayed by San Francisco earthquake. In May, the
Department of Fine Arts purchases 10 Japanese prints from Sadakichi Hartmann, and 27 Japanese prints from B.C. Brown, selected by Hartmann.

First gift from H. J. Heinz – Records give the first indication of a section for “Carvings in Wood and Ivory,” a result of a donation from trustee Herbert Du Puy of a German wood carving and the willingness of “one of our wealthy friends” (H.J. Heinz) to loan his collection of ivories. Heinz donates 36 ebony and ivory canes.

Andrew Carnegie donates Chinese and Japanese porcelain to Carnegie Institute; Heinz loans a small collection of ancient Chinese embroidered silk garments which joined a collection of Japanese embroidered silks from Mr. John Ferguson.

Heinz loans 50 specimens of antique ivories, “to which he has promised to add another specimen which is unique, being the largest ivory carving anywhere in existence.” This may refer to the life-sized eagle.

H.J. Heinz puts entire collection of ivories “one of the finest, if not the finest in the country” on loan to Dept of Wood and Ivory Carvings; Department of Fine Arts exhibits 37 Japanese prints from 1906 purchase and 39 on loan from Dr. O. N. Orlow collection

H. J. Heinz’s life size ivory eagle from Yokohama goes on view in a special case.

H. J. Heinz appointed “Honorary Curator of Textiles, Time Pieces, and Ivory Carvings”

1916 , November or December
First purchase of Japanese prints for The Department of Fine Arts from the American Art Association

Kojiro Tomita, curator of Japanese art at Boston Museum of Fine Art, delivers talk to children “Child Life in Japan” while dressed in “native costume,” illustrates talk with collection. He rejects a number (approx 33) of Japanese prints in the collection as of poor quality; they are destroyed.

1918, February-March
Purchase from Yamanaka, New York, of 15 or 16 Japanese prints for $3776.25. Exhibition of recent acquisitions of prints and drawings by Department of Fine Arts includes Japanese print acquisitions (14 prints) and one Hiroshige landscape watercolor.