Revisiting the Past: How the Bing Archives Came to Light in Montevideo


in Journal of Japonisme
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Siegfried Bing (Hamburg 1838-Paris 1905) and August Bing (Hamburg 1852-Kassel 1918) led the West’s exposure to and interpretation of Japanese arts and crafts at the turn of the nineteenth century. Their collecting, curating and sharing gave rise to an epoch of new artistic feeling in Western visual arts (figs 1 and 2). With August managing the family’s enterprises in Japan and China (1879-1889), Siegfried overseeing the Parisian gallery of Asian art which was to become the Maison de l’Art Nouveau in 1895, and Siegfried’s brother-in-law Michael Baer, Germany’s Honorary Consul in Tokyo, also active, the Bing family exhibited a connoisseurship and taste for adventure that redefined the collecting and making of art. The family’s travels, artistic discoveries and collecting of Asian objects became widely known through Siegfried Bing’s writings, the efforts of researchers to retrace the gallery’s inventory, and recent scholarship and exhibitions devoted to Siegfried Bing. My family worked from 2004 to 2009 to continue to preserve the Bing legacy by re-securing the hitherto undiscovered photographic, cartographic, business and personal correspondence archives of Siegfried and August Bing and Michael Baer. The efforts of my son Ira, his wife Genevieve, my wife Maru and me, which between us involved five journeys to Montevideo, Uruguay, are recounted here.


Revisiting the Past: How the Bing Archives Came to Light in Montevideo


in Journal of Japonisme

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Figures

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    Siegfried Bing as a scholar, seated at his Parisian desk. Undated. Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017.

  • View in gallery
    Interior of Siegfried Bing’s Parisian shop at 22 Rue de Provence/19 Rue Chauchat, filled with Asian objects. Before December, 1895. Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017.

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    Ira Bing and Hans Heinrich (Heine) Mathias in Heine’s garden in Montevideo, Uruguay. Both hold a yellow ceramic tile from the Imperial Palace in Beijing. The tile was brought back to Paris by Siegfried Bing. Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017.

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    Photo of Irene Bing, the daughter of August Bing, with her husband, Dr Karl Mathias (lawyer and notary), and their two children, Lutz (an engineer, Berlin 1922-Montevideo 2002) and Hans Heinrich (a veterinarian, Berlin 1929-Montevideo 2008). This photograph was taken in Florence, Italy, in 1937 shortly before they boarded a ship to Montevideo. The family lived in Italy after they fled Nazi Germany in 1934. Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017.

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    Professor Dov Bing, Professor Gabriel P. Weisberg, and Chief Curator of Exhibitions at the Van Gogh Museum Edwin Becker at the 2003 meeting in Amsterdam. Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017.

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    Attendees at the opening of the exhibition Origin of L’Art Nouveau: The Bing Empire, including Ira and Dov Bing with the Weisbergs and Edwin Becker. Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017.

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    Siegfried and August Bing’s parents, Jacob Bing and his wife Friederike Renner. Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017.

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    Original travel map from Siegfried and August Bing’s sea voyages to the Far East, hand-annotated with specific dates of the progress of the voyage. Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017.

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    Siegfried and August Bing’s shared and jointly initialed travel trunk. This trunk went on numerous voyages from Paris to Yokohama and back during the period from 1879 to 1889. Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017.

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    Photograph from a glass plate negative of the Japanese landscape. Image taken by Siegfried Bing, who was an inveterate amateur photographer. This is one of many photographs he took in various prefectures. Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017.

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    Siegfried Bing, Paris, ca. 1867. Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017. Photograph by ‘Reutlinger Photographer, 21 Boulevard ­Montmartre, Paris. Première Exposition Universelle 1867’.

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    Photograph of the Bing family, including, left to right, Lily and August Bing, Otto Bing, and Julius Bing and his wife, in Paris, 1884. Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017. Photographer unknown.

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    Bust of Jacques, Siegfried Bing’s oldest child, who died in Algeria at the age of 21. Artist unknown. Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017. 

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    Lily Bing, August Bing’s wife, on a steamer from Yokohama to Shanghai. Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017. Photo taken by August Bing, 1883.

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    Photograph of a stand at the Paris Exposition Universelle, 1900. Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017. Photograph possibly taken by Siegfried Bing.

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    Professor Dov Bing and Dr Heine Mathias celebrating Heine’s 79th birthday in Montevideo. Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017. 

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    Letter from Julius Bing, Siegfried’s brother, to his niece Irene Bing. Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017. 

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    Ōkubo Toshihiro (center), Harada Kimihiro (left) and Professor Dov Bing (right). Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017. Photograph taken at the headquarters of the Kasumi Kaikan (Peers’ Club), situated close to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, May 2013. 

  • View in gallery
    Professor Dov Bing and Maru Bing-Kulka at the Shimogamo shrine in Kyoto in 2013. Copyright Professor D. Bing & I. Bing, 2017. Photograph by Professor Miyajima Hisao of Kyoto University.


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