Manga to Mural Exhibition
New exhibition exploring the work of Nineteenth Century Japan-influenced interiors artist John Thomas opens at Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum on 17 February 2009
Manga to Mural – the Japanese Sketches of John Thomas
17 February – 1 November 2009
A new exhibition at Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, Bournemouth, exploring the influence of Japanese art on the Victorian interior decoration of the Russell-Cotes’ home – Manga to Mural: the Japanese Sketches of John Thomas - will run from 17 February to 1 November 2009.
The exhibition looks at the work of John Thomas, the decorative artist who was commissioned by Sir Merton and Lady Russell-Cotes to create the breathtaking murals and hand-painted glass in their unique museum-home.
The exhibition will move the viewer through prints of original Japanese Manga (which literally means ‘whimsical drawings’) to Thomas’ sketches and to the final works adorning the fabric of East Cliff Hall.
Directly influenced by the work of some of the great 19th Century Japanese artists such as Hokusai, Bairei and Hiroshige, most of Thomas’s mural work was based on his Portfolio of Japanese Sketches, published in the 1870s. Most of these sketches were copies or adaptations of the work of these Japanese artists. The work heavily features birds and other wildlife.
The legacy Thomas left, now conserved in situ at Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, is a glorious example of how fashionable interior décor was influenced by Japanese art in the West in the Victorian era.
In 1898, the Russell-Coteses employed Thomas to hand-paint murals and glass in their new and eccentric museum-home East Cliff Hall (now the historic core of Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum). Most of the late-Victorian villa is adorned with hand-painted scenes across walls, covings and glass by Thomas.
Thomas was originally engaged by Sir Merton and Lady Russell-Cotes in 1879 to create a ‘Japanese Drawing Room’ in the Royal Bath Hotel, in Bournemouth, of which they were the proprietors. At that time it was fashionable to incorporate Japanese visual elements in interior design. This was triggered, in part, by the new relative ease of world travel to more ‘exotic’ parts of the globe. A decade earlier, the 1862 London International Exhibition had allowed the British people to see art and artifacts from Japan for the first time, igniting a passion for all things Japanese.
Shaun Garner, curator of the exhibition explains, “We know very little about John Thomas. He was known as an artist from Bowden in Cheshire and by 1879 he was a celebrated artist in London.
“We also know that John Thomas had a son – Oliver, who assisted his father with some of the mural painting in some of the rooms at East Cliff Hall, possibly as a result of John’s failing health. We know John Thomas had died by 1908. We are hoping that through the exhibition further information about Thomas will come to light”
The Russell-Cotes visited Japan in 1885 returning with over 100 cases of curios. They had East Cliff Hall built as part-home, part-museum to showcase these objects along with others they collected form their travels to other parts of the world, as well as Merton’s important art collection.
The exhibition Manga to Mural: the Japanese Sketches of John Thomas will run from 17 February to 1 November 2009. Admission is free.
NOTES TO EDITORS
• 1862, First international exhibition highlighting work from Japan takes place, igniting ‘Japanese mania’ in the west
• 1873-75, Portfolio of Japanese Sketches by John Thomas published and printed by Letham Bros. of Manchester
• 1876, Christmas Day – Merton & Annie Russell-Cotes arrive in Bournemouth to take possession of the Bath Hotel
• 1878, Bath Hotel closes for refurbishment
• 1879, John Thomas commissioned to create the ‘Japanese Drawing Room’ at the Royal Bath Hotel
• 1880, the hotel re-opens as the Royal Bath Hotel
• 1897, April – earliest known plans drawn of East Cliff Hall
• 1898 - work begins on the site
• 1901, 15th July – East Cliff Hall is completed and given to Annie as a birthday present by Merton
• 1907, 6th November – announcement of gift of house and collections to form Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum
• 1908, John Thomas referred to as “the late John Thomas” in the Deed of Gift
• 1908, 1st February – formal gift of East Cliff Hall (Annie and Merton’s wedding anniversary)
• 1908, 15th July – Annie and Merton made Freemen of the Borough (on Annie’s birthday)
• 1909, 5th June – formal opening as the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum by the Lord Mayor of London
• 1909, 22nd July – Merton knighted by Edward VII
• 1912 – Annie starts planning the art gallery extension
• 1916 - 1919 – Art Galleries built
• 1919, 1st February – Princess Beatrice formally opens the art galleries (Annie and Merton’s wedding anniversary)
• 1920, 17th April – Annie dies
• 1921, 27th January – Merton dies and Trustees assume their duties
• 1921, Richard Quick appointed curator by the Trustees
• 1922, 10th March – Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum opens fully to the public
• 1998 – 2001, Heritage Lottery Fund restores East Cliff Hall to its original splendour
2. The Manga to Mural – The Japanese Sketches of John Thomas exhibition will run from 17 February – 1 November 2009.
3. A selection of images to accompany this story are available.
4. Visitor information:
Tuesday – Sunday & Bank Holiday Mondays 10am – 5pm
Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday
Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum
Bournemouth BH1 3AA
Tel: 01202 451858 / 800
Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum is a registered charity (no. 306288).
FOR PRESS ENQUIRES & IMAGES:
T. 01202 451823