Description: Robert Weir Allan (1851-1942)
signed 'Robert W. Allan 1908' (lower right)
oil on canvas
30 x 60¼in. (76.2 x 153cm.)
Exhibited: Pittsburg, Carnegie Institute.
Provenance: Anonymous sale; Ritchies, Canada, 4 June 1991, lot 167 (49,500 CDND)
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Born in Glasgow, Weir Allan studied in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and at the Academie Julian where he was much influenced by the Impressionists. He relished living and working abroad and became an inveterate traveller, undertaking tours to India and North Africa as well as to continental Europe. He was probably inspired to go to Japan following the example of Edward Atkinson Hornel and George Henry who painted there in 1893, funded by Alexander Reid and William Burrell.
Their subsequent exhibition in Glasgow was a critical and commercial success.
Following the arrival of Commodore Perry's squadron in 1853 requesting that American vessels use some of Japan's harbours, the country gradually opened to Western trade and influence. After centuries of self-imposed isolation its culture and decorative arts became the source of fascination to many in the west, and in the late 19th Century a taste for japonisme became prevalent. Interest in the country reached a peak in the early 1900s following Japan's defeat of Russia in 1904, and the success of Giacomo Puccini's opera, Madame Butterfly, first staged in the same year.
In this large canvas, Weir Allan, who often worked in watercolour and was made Vice-President of the Royal Watercolour Society following his return from Japan in 1908, has chosen to depict one of the most enduring symbols of the country: the snow capped peak of Mount Fujiyama, the country's highest mountain. Foreground interest is provided by the boats, costume and architecture indigenous to the island. The painting has a distinguished exhibition history, having been shown at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh.