All That Glistens

A Century of Japanese Lacquer
Nov 18, 2012–Sep 7, 2016

Attributed to Umezawa Ryūshin, 1874–1953, Cosmetic Box (tebako) with Tiger Lilies, Pinks, and Cricket. Kyoto; Taishō/Shōwa period, about 1912–30. Lacquer. Denver Art Museum; Anonymous donor in honor of Kyoko Kita, 2011.258

Unsigned, Cosmetic Box (tebako) with Mandarin Orange Branches. Kanazawa, Ishikawa prefecture; Taishō period, about 1912–26. Lacquer, pewter. Denver Art Museum; Sam F. and Freda Davis Charitable Trust, 2011.284

Unsigned, Cosmetic Box (tebako) with Mandarin Orange Branches. Kanazawa, Ishikawa prefecture; Taishō period, about 1912–26. Lacquer, pewter. Denver Art Museum; Sam F. and Freda Davis Charitable Trust, 2011.284

Attributed to Umezawa Ryūshin, 1874–1953, Cosmetic Box (tebako) with Tiger Lilies, Pinks, and Cricket. Kyoto; Taishō/Shōwa period, about 1912–30. Lacquer. Denver Art Museum; Anonymous donor in honor of Kyoko Kita, 2011.258

about

Closed: November 18, 2012–Sep 7, 2016
North Building - Level 5

The 30 artworks in this exhibition reveal the versatility of lacquer as a medium used by Japanese artists to create containers, trays, plaques, braziers, and screens. A wide range of techniques are represented to demonstrate how lacquer was used during the last century to create objects of enduring beauty. The selected artworks reflect the changing styles and tastes of successive generations of lacquer artists who produced designs based on plants, animals, and other elements of nature.

Lacquer is the sap from a tree that grows in Japan and elsewhere in Asia. After it is purified and processed, lacquer turns into a clear, viscous liquid that becomes very strong and durable once it hardens. Various pigments are added to lacquer to give it its color. Black, red, and gold are most common. In addition, mother-of-pearl, eggshell, and precious metals are added to the glossy objects to produce stunning visual effects. Lacquer needs a foundation to support it and give it its shape. It is applied to wood, bamboo, cloth, paper, and other materials that form its body.

To demonstrate the intricacies of the lacquer-making process, the exhibition includes a specially commissioned box that holds samples of raw lacquer and the tools and materials used by lacquer artists. It shows the step-by-step techniques of lacquer making and conveys the intricacies of this uniquely Japanese art form.

Explore QTVR 360-degree panoramic views of All That Glistens: A Century of Japanese Lacquer in the galleries on your desktop or laptop. On the new window that opens, click on the image and drag to change your perspective and click the minus (-) or plus (+) buttons below the image to zoom. Visit Apple.com to download the latest free QuickTime software to view QTVR files.

News & Stories

  • The Craft and Care of East Asian Lacquer
    Blog: Behind the Scenes

    The Craft and Care of East Asian Lacquer

    East Asian lacquer has very particular conservation concerns due to the nature of its materials and construction. To care for it most effectively, it is important to understand how it is made and what factors contribute to its degradation over time. More