Henri Vever (1854 – 1942) collector of Ukiyo-e

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Henri Vever Ukiyo-e Print
Henri Vever Ukiyo-e Print

Collector of Ukiyo-e

Henri Vever (1854–1942) was a leading European jeweller in the early twentieth century, running the family business, Maison Vever, inherited from his grandfather. Henri was also an avid collector of fine art, including prints, paintings, and books from Europe and Asia. Vever became one of the first Europeans to formally collect Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints in the 1880s, purchasing large quantities from sellers such as Hayashi Tadamasa. He was a member of Les Amis de l’Art Japonais, a club of Japanese art connoisseurs who met weekly over dinner to study Japanese prints and other works, including Claude Monet.

Collection of over 1000 Ukiyo-e Prints

Vever had acquired a collection of thousands of fine ukiyo-e prints by the early twentieth century. Vever’s collection was so well-regarded that the authors of some of the first European scholarly publications on ukiyo-e relied heavily on it for most of their actual print research. Von Seidlitz, Migeon, and Lemoisne, whose L’Estampe Japonaise exclusively employed Vever’s prints, are among these authors. Vever opted (or was compelled) to sell most of his collection during World War I, selling 7996 prints to Japanese industrialist Matsukata Kojiro, who bought them sight unseen based on the collection’s reputation. The prints would eventually end up at the Tokyo National Museum, making up the majority of the ukiyo-e collection. Vever’s prints wound up in France’s national museums, thanks to Vever’s earlier donation.

Ukiyo-e print - Henri Vever Collection
Ukiyo-e print – Henri Vever Collection

Although many of the masterpieces of the ukiyo-e movement made their way back to Japan via Matsukata, Vever kept many of his best prints for himself and continued to collect after the First World War, acquiring pieces from former rivals Gonse, Haviland, Manzi, Isaac, and Javal as their collections went to the auction houses of Paris. He ceased collecting in the 1930s, and his “famous” collection vanished during World War II. The German occupation of France the following decade, not to be seen again until 1974 when Sotheby’s announced that it would be auctioned.

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Wikipedia contributors. (2021, April 8). Henri Vever. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:18, July 14, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Henri_Vever&oldid=1016677961

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