British Museum To Display More Than 100 Unseen Works By Katsushika Hokusai 

More than 100 postcard-sized drawings by Katsushika Hokusai will be on display to the public for the first time in two centuries after being acquired by the British Museum. The museum’s director, Hartwig Fischer, claims the drawings were “remarkable and unique, the discovery alone is incredible.” 

Hokusai is most famously known for The Great Wave, one of the most recognizable and reproduced artworks of all time. He’s known for having extreme influence on 19th-century European impressionist art; Van Gough was deeply inspired by Hokusai. 

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According to the museum, at some point in the 1840s, when Hokusai would’ve been in his 80s, he began working on a new project called The Great Picture Book of Everything, in which he let his imagination run completely wild with fantastical and intricate drawings of beautiful fantasy scenes. 

The project was never published, so the drawings were simply put in a box, and have been stored away ever since. The history of these prints is rather unknown. They were once owned by Henry Vever, a Japanese art collector who died in 1942; a century after they were originally made. 

In 1948 the prints appeared at an auction in Paris, and were purchased to become a part of a private French collection, where they were eventually forgotten about. In 2019, they reappeared at a Paris auction, where the British Museum purchased them for around $270,000. 

“They were created at a time modern audiences could relate to. These drawings were created in a period of lockdown, if you will, when Japan had closed its borders for almost 200 years.”

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Fischer explained that at the time, “contact with the outside world was limited and strictly regulated and even journeys within the country required an official permit. It is a situation many of us can sympathize with.”

The drawings mainly depict  religious and mythological figures as well as animals, birds, and flowers. Alfred Haft, a project curator at the museum, said “all 103 drawings were gems, each rewarding close study, each showing us Hokusai’s lively mind and hand at work together.”

Fischer said Hokusai’s art combined “boundless invention, subtle humour and deep humanity. The museum already has one of the most comprehensive collections of Hokusai’s work outside Japan, so this is the appropriate home for the drawings in my opinion.”

Currently anyone can view the drawings on the British Museum’s website, and the actual drawings will be on display in the museum for the first time in history starting September 30th until January 2022. 

Plastic Cup

3,000-Year-Old Cup Proves Humans Haven’t Been Green For A Long Time

The Minoans are historically known as one of the original European civilizations; beyond that, they’re also known as one of the most innovative and advanced for their time. The Minoans were around between 1700 and 1600 BC on the island of Crete in Greece. Archaeologists have always credited the Minoans for their advancements in technology, and now, they discovered a 3,600 year old cup that they believe to have been the first evidence of disposable utensil technology. The cup was discovered to be fully intact, and through further inspection, archaeologists believe it was meant to be thrown out after one use. Throughout the past few years, thousands of these disposable cups have been discovered throughout the island. Experts believe they were most likely used to hold wine, based on the aging and shape. Now, the most recent discovery will be on display at the British Museum in London as the first evidence of disposable dishware. 

“People may be very surprised to know that disposable, single-use cups are not the invention of our modern consumerist society, but in fact can be traced back thousands of years. Three and a half thousand years ago, the Minoans were using them for a very similar reason to us today: to serve drinks at parties. The only difference is the material. People were getting together in large groups and much like today, nobody wants to do the washing-up,” Julia Farley, a curator at the British Museum.

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Prince Charles, Prince of Wales attends “Cooking Like Minoans”

Farley went on to explain that the specific museum display that the cup will be a part of is titled “Rubbish And Us.” The exhibit plans to show multiple examples of single-use products from the past into today. The items from the past are meant to show the unexpected strength and endurance the original materials that disposable products were made with have. One of the other most notable items that is set to be on display is a waxed paper cup, that originally was made for serving hot beverages on flights, from the 1990’s.

A major aspect of this display is also to raise awareness over how, even in 1700 BC, these materials were so tough to break down, that they just sit in the Earth and further contribute to pollution. Single-use products in general, but plastic especially, are one of the leading causes of litter and pollution on land and in our oceans today. With this new evidence, it’s clear that this has also been an issue since the dawn of modern civilization.

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“With ceramics being a higher status material to us now, it seems strange to throw them away after just one use. But like plastic today, clay was readily available, cheap to acquire, easy to mold. But also like plastic, clay stays in the ground for many, many years,” Farley stated.

Currently, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is almost two times the size of Texas when combined, more than 400 million pieces of plastic were recently discovered on a remote group of islands off the coast of India, and we ingest thousands of microplastic particles every day when we use these single use products. These issues only scratch the surface when it comes to damage induced by litter that plagues our natural world and remains stagnant and intact for years and years.

The exhibit is meant to be completely educational, as it is intriguing. The fact that scientists have discovered that even 3,000 years ago humans wanted an easy solution to their dinnerware needs is truly an amazing discovery, and it gives us a greater insight into just how advanced humanity was at the time. The “Rubbish And Us” exhibit at the museum will be opening on December 19th, and will be displayed until February 23rd. So if you’re in the London area and want to learn more about the initial use of disposables in modern society, be sure to go check it out!