From today, the Rijksmuseum is showing a selection of Japanese prints on the theme of the Kabuki theatre from a donation from the Herwig-Kempers couple. Henk Herwig and Arendie Herwig-Kempers collected an impressive collection of prints around the theme of the Kabuki theatre for many years. The exhibition of these kabuki prints can be seen in the Asian Pavilion until 13 October 2019.
The Kabuki theatre was founded around 1600 and quickly grew into one of the most popular forms of folk entertainment in Japan. Representations about historical heroes, animals, ghosts, thieves and prostitutes were very popular. In the capital Edo, Kabuki pieces were performed daily in different theatres from dawn to dusk. However, the government regarded the Kabuki theatre as a source of disturbances and in the mid-17th century, women and young men were forbidden to take the stage. From that moment on, all roles, including the female characters, were played by male actors. From the beginning of the 18th century, Kabuki theatre has been a popular theme in Japanese printmaking. Well-known print artists depicted highlights from the performances, often in the form of two-part or three-part, which could be purchased as a memento after a theatre visit.
The fascination of the Herwig-Kempers couple
Henk Herwig and Arendie Herwig-Kempers have been collecting Japanese prints for more than forty years with the theme of the Kabuki theatre. Their passion for this subject began after a visit to a Kabuki show in Paris, the city where they also bought their first print. In the meantime, their collection consists of more than 1500 prints, mostly from the 19th century, which they donated in parts to the Rijksmuseum in recent years and years to come. Their decision to donate has to do with the desire to keep the collection together and to make it accessible to other interested parties through the museum. The choice for the Rijksmuseum is the combination of care for the collection and its accessibility. That care is guaranteed with a Japanese prints curator. The website of the Rijksmuseum and the reading room of the Print Room, where researchers and enthusiasts can study prints, make the collection accessible to a wide audience.
Source: Press release