“The Most Passionate of All”


Henri Vever and Japonisme in fin-de-siècle France


in Journal of Japonisme
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Known primarily as a jeweler in the vanguard of Art nouveau and an important collector of the Impressionists, Henri Vever (1854-1942), as his private diaries make clear, was also a foremost connoisseur of Japanese art in fin-de-siècle France, “the most passionate of all,” to Edmond de Goncourt. Well-connected to networks of dealers, museum officials, publications, and sites of sociability such as the dîners japonais, Vever figures among the most prominent members of a second wave of Parisian enthusiasts of Japanese art, active from approximately 1880 to 1900. Under the tutelage of the Japanese art dealers Hayashi Tadamasa and Siegfried Bing and the fine art printer Charles Gillot, Vever constituted a renowned collection of not only Japanese prints but also other art objects previously disregarded by collectors. Vever’s multiple and intersecting identities as luxury craft producer, leading member of professional associations, art historian and critic, collector, and Republican mayor placed him at the forefront of efforts to legitimate the collection and appreciation of Japanese art in France. His diaries also underscore the connections between the worlds of Japanese and Impressionist art collectors, and between proponents of japonisme and Art nouveau. Further, they highlight the importance of the 1900 Paris Exposition universelle as a triumphant moment for japonisme in France, just as they signal the shift on the part of some japonisants, at the same time, from Japanese art towards the decorative arts of the Islamic world.


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References
  • 5

     Jack Hillier“Introduction,” in Highly Important Japanese Printsp. 11. On Henri Vever’s print collection see also Max Put Plunder and Pleasure: Japanese Art in the West 1860-1930 (Leiden: Hotei Publishing 2000) p. 78 note 21 and passim.

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  • 9

     Henri Vever [18-19 July?] 1878cahier (1878) HV.

  • 12

     Gaston Migeon“Bibliographie: une histoire de l’estampe japonaise,” in Gazette des Beaux-ArtsJanuary-June 1898 p. 176.

  • 13

     Raymond KœchlinSouvenirs d’un vieil amateur d’art de l’Extrême-Orient (Chalon-sur-Saône: Imprimerie française et orientale É. Bertrand1930) p. 25-26.

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  • 14

     RivièreLes Détours du chemin p. 105.

  • 21

     Charles Saunier“Blanc et noir,” in La Plumevol. 73 May 1892 p. 203. In addition to 227 prints Vever lent numerous other works to this exhibit especially by Dutch Masters and painters of the Barbizon School. See Catalogue officiel de la 5e exposition internationale de blanc et noir (Paris: E. Bernard et Cie 1892).

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  • 28

     Possémé and Aitken“Les estampes japonaises” p. 142.

  • 36

     In a letter of 29 April 1898Vever informed Hayashi that “[t]he two large sets of diamonds [parures] will be finished soon and we will send them around May 20th. We await your instructions for the cases and the initials or Imperial insignia [couronnes] that we need to mark them with and for details concerning customs [la douane]. But it’s likely that we’ll receive a letter from you between now and then. If not I’ll do my best.” Koyama-Richard (ed.) Correspondance adressée à Hayashi Tadamasa p. 257.

  • 46

     Gaston Migeon“Charles Gillot,” in Collection Charles Gillot: objets d’art et peintures d’Extrême-Orientvol. 1 (Paris 1904) p. vii.

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  • 51

     Migeon“Charles Gillot” p. viii.

  • 53

     See Shimizu“The Appreciation and Study of Japanese Art” p. 40. On Burty’s collection of books about Japan see Gabriel P. Weisberg The Independent Critic: Philippe Burty and the Visual Arts of Mid-Nineteenth Century France (New York: Peter Lang 1993) pp. 270-277.

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  • 54

     On 8 May 1899Vever wrote to Hayashi: “For the library catalog that you are going to be obliged to redo don’t forget to leave spaces in order to interpose [references to] new works once I buy them. You can indicate in the catalog the approximate value of each work […] this will please me.” Koyama-Richard (ed.) Correspondance adressée à Hayashi Tadamasa p. 284.

  • 60

     KœchlinSouvenirs pp. 60-61.

  • 61

     Louis GonseL’Art japonais (Paris: Quantin1883) vol. 1 p. i. Following Gonse in his article “L’influence de l’art japonais sur l’art décoratif moderne” for example Vever affirmed that along with the ancient Greeks “the Japanese are the most artistic nation that has ever existed” endowed with an “innate sense” of decoration. Bulletin de la Société franco-japonaise de ParisJune 1911 pp. 111-112.

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  • 67

     Gabriel P. Weisberg“Lost and Found: S. Bing’s Merchandising of Japonisme and Art ­Nouveau,” in Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide4.2 (Summer 2005) pp. 1-31 (accessed 20 March 2014).

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  • 68

     Shimizu“The Appreciation and Study of Japanese Art” p. 44.

  • 69

     KœchlinSouvenirs pp. 19-21.

  • 70

     Shimizu“The Appreciation and Study of Japanese Art” p. 47.

  • 71

     KœchlinSouvenirs p. 103.

  • 72

     Ibid. p. 23.

  • 73

     Weisberg“Lost and Found” p. 2.

  • 74

     KœchlinSouvenirs p. 21.

  • 78

     Shimizu“The Appreciation and Study of Japanese Art” p. 48.

  • 82

     On 2 October 1900Vever returned for a second viewing of La Geisha et le chevalier again noting that Sada Yacco “always dies in an admirable fashion.”

  • 84

     Account book (1894) n.p. Henri Vever Papers Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives of the Smithsonian Institution.

  • 86

     On March 14 1900Henri Vever along with his wife and daughter attended a lecture by Krafft “with projected images of his travels in Central Asia Turkestan etc. We review with pleasure the sites and people of Boukhara and Samarkand which we visited in 1891.”

Figures
  • View in gallery
    Henri Vever, ca. 1895. Henri Vever Papers, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Gift of François Mautin, 1988.

  • View in gallery
    Page from Henri Vever’s diary for 1898 (HV1). Henri Vever Papers, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Gift of François Mautin, 1988.

  • View in gallery
    Torii Kiyonaga (1752-1815), Interior of a Bathhouse (Japanese, Edo period), woodblock print, ink and color on paper (15 1/4 × 20 1/2 in.). By permission of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. William Sturgis Bigelow Collection, by exchange.

  • View in gallery
    Torii Kiyonaga (1752-1815), right-hand sheet for a diptych, Edo period, late 18th-early 19th century, woodblock print, ink and color on paper (15 3/16 × 10 3/16 in.). Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.: Bequest of Charles H.W. Verbeck, S2010.18.112.

  • View in gallery
    Keisai Eisen (1790-1848), Carp, Edo period, ca. 1843-1846, woodblock print, ink and color on paper (9 3/4 × 14 1/2 in.). Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.: Gift of John Fuegi and Jo Francis, F2014.2.

  • View in gallery
    Charles Gillot, photograph, in Collection Charles Gillot: Objets d’art et peintures d’Extrême-Orient, vol. 1 (Paris, 1904).

  • View in gallery
    Ran’u, Apparition of the Courtesan, Edo period, 1765, woodblock print, ink and color on paper, (11 × 7 5/8 in.). Henri Vever’s collector’s seal is on bottom right. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.: The Anne van Biema Collection, S2004.3.20.

  • View in gallery
    Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) (publisher: Nishimuraya Yohachi; block cutter: Tomekichi Egawa), book, Edo period, 1823, woodblock printed, ink on paper, paper covers (vols. 1-2: 5 3/16 × 7 3/16 × 3/8 in.; vol. 3: 5 1/16 × 7 3/16 × 3/8 in.). Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Purchase, The Gerhard Pulverer Collection – Charles Lang Freer Endowment, Friends of the Freer and Sackler Galleries and the Harold P. Stern Memorial fund in appreciation of Jeffrey P. Cunard and his exemplary service to the Galleries as chair of the Board of Trustees (2003-2007), FSC-GR-780.240.1-3.

  • View in gallery
    Guest list, Dîner des amis de l’art japonais, 1893. Henri Vever Papers, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Gift of François Mautin, 1988.

  • View in gallery
    Lunch offered to delegates of the Société franco-japonaise, 8 September 1910, Queen Anne’s Mansions, London. Bulletin de la Société franco-japonaise XXII (June 1911), p. 137. Henri Vever is sixth from the right in the back row.

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    Henri Vever in Central Asia, 1891. Henri Vever Papers, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Gift of François Mautin, 1988.

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