‘Fisherman with a Basket of Fish’ exemplifies Japan okimono carvings

By Daniel Fulco, Ph.D., Agnita M. Stine Schreiber Curator
We hope that you enjoy this Japanese sculpture from the collection.

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Unknown (Japanese, late Edo or Meiji Period)
Fisherman with a Basket of Fish, ca. late 1840–90
Collection of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
Gift of Dr. & Mrs. Harry Bowman, A1651,71.0404

Fisherman with a Basket of Fish exemplifies carvings of its type (called okimono) that seamlessly combine portraiture and genre (scenes of everyday life) elements. With his lifelike expression and sense of immediacy, this man’s actions are captured exquisitely and the viewer is invited to join in appreciating all of his anatomical details as well as those of the fish and basket which he carries.

Works such as this were in high demand as export objects in mid- to late 19th-century Japan and predominantly geared toward European and American markets. As Japanese ivory carvers gradually imported and adapted western sculptural techniques and approaches, they adapted their style to suit an ever-growing group of consumers who purchased decorative pieces for interior displays of Asian art. After Japan’s participation in several World’s Fairs or Universal Expositions, where ivory sculptures were exhibited and sold, the demand for them increased significantly. The taste for these works in Europe and America also paralleled the rise of Japonisme, a term that refers to the popularity and influence of Japanese art and design in the West.

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This WeekendArt is sponsored by Mr. William G. Pitzer