31st October 2017

John and Joséphine Bowes: Collecting the Far East

2nd September – 31st October

A display of fine and decorative arts from The Bowes Museum


The Garden Rooms at Tennants are delighted to welcome back The Bowes Museum or their third loan display of highlights from their extraordinary collection.

This year, the display explores nineteenth-century Europe’s fascination with the Far East through the collection of The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle.

The Bowes Museum’s founders, John (1811-1885) and Joséphine Bowes (1825-1874), collected a significant amount of fine and decorative art that represents non-Western cultures. This exhibition provides the opportunity to highlight some pieces not normally on prominent display, and to investigate them in greater detail.

Exquisite examples of furniture, ceramics, textiles, painting and curiosities, mainly from China and Japan, have been selected to illustrate some of the ways in which wealthy Europeans collectors were able to engage with foreign cultures.

John and Joséphine Bowes sought out samples of non-Western techniques, foreign materials and fine craftsmanship that were adapted or emulated by European artists and makers. They also collected objects that represented the customs and cultures that fascinated them. Their attraction to depictions of the Far East exemplified the trend for exoticism that swept over Europe in the nineteenth century, alongside the revival of the Rococo, which was equally fashionable.

The exhibition also investigates the wider influences of the East on Europe. In particular, it describes the influx of exotic objects into the auction houses and the grand International Exhibitions of the middle decades of the nineteenth century.

The display has been researched and assembled by Lindsay Macnaughton (University of Durham) and Simon Spier (University of Leeds), both doctoral students funded by the AHRC through the National Gallery’s Collaborative Doctoral Consortium in partnership with The Bowes Museum.

For our daily opening times please see here

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