I popped into The Bristol Museum this week to find out about their netsuke collection. So lovely to be greeted by printmaker Melanie Wickham in the main reception. She pointed me in the right direction for their online collections, the Eastern Arts Gallery and contact details for Kate Newnham (Curator of Eastern Art and Culture at Bristol’s Museums, Galleries and Archives). I headed upstairs to the second floor to check out their tiny collection of Japanese netsuke in the Eastern Arts Gallery.
Eastern Art Gallery
The gallery is abundant with Chinese ceramics from the Ming, Tang and Song dynasty. A small group of Japanese netsuke labelled 'Miniature zodiac animals from Japan' sit in a Dragon themed glass cabinet. A crouching tiger, a monkey eating some fruit, a horse lying on its side curled up like a cat, a hare wearing a dress holding onto a cylindrical object and a coiled up sea creature. I have no pencil on me so I take a quick photo to remind me what is here. Taking a photograph is useful and there are positives to drawing from a photograph especially when the lens magnifies the detail. What is fascinating about seeing the real thing, is the intricately carved detail which flows around the entire netsuke. The detail in these tiny objects is breath taking and when I stop for a couple of hours to draw these netsuke, I take the time to appreciate what is in front of me, allowing more of an intimate connection with these beautiful works of art.
Booking a Netsuke Drawing Session
I head back to my studio and check out The Bristol Museum website. I find a list of 240 netsuke without images. All of these netsuke are in storage so I send an email to Kate Newnham to find out more about their netsuke collection with a view to drawing some of the netsuke animals from their online list.
A few days later I received an email back from Kate who has booked me in for a netsuke drawing session later on this month.