Philadelphia Collects Meiji

“Philadelphia Collects Meiji”
Felice Fischer (Philadelphia Museum of Art)

The 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition provided the first opportunity for Americans to view Japanese wares and stimulated early collectors of Japanese art in Philadelphia.  General Hector Tyndale (1821-1880), whose family was in the ceramic manufacturing and import business, served as a judge for the Ceramics Section of the Philadelphia Exhibition and subsequently purchased many of the ceramics.  These came to the Philadelphia Museum of Art by bequest in 1897 and formed the core of the museum’s early Japanese collection.

Ernest Fenollosa (1852-1908) was also moved by the skills of Japanese craftsmen at the Centennial Exhibition.  He subsequently taught in Japan and became America’s first historian of Japanese painting. Fenollosa organized exhibitions for such contemporary artists as Kano Hōgai and Hashimoto Gahō and acquired their paintings for his own collection. The latter were inherited by Fenollosa’s daughter Brenda, who subsequently donated most of them to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Mary Harris Morris (1836-1924) was a founder of the Women’s Foreign Missionary Association of Friends of Philadelphia, which began a mission in Japan in 1885 and a Friends Girl’s School in Tokyo in 1887. Mary and her husband Wistar Morris acquired a group of Japanese paintings during a three-month sojourn in Japan in 1890. Subsequently bequeathed to Mary’s granddaughter, (Mrs. William) Logan MacCoy, they came to the PMA in 1924.

Samuel S. White, 3rd (1876-1952), heir to the S.S. White Dental Company fortune, amassed a collection of Japanese paintings on several business trips to Japan in the early twentieth century.  Since White and his wife Vera focused on Western contemporary art, their small collection of Meiji era Japanese paintings is virtually unknown to Japanese art historians.

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