THE ERNST HACKER AND LUCIA VERNARELLI GIFT
AN AMERICAL ARTIST IN TOKYO IN 1946In April 1946, Ernst Hacker, (1917-1987), by
birth an Austrian and a refugee from the Nazis, found himself posted with the
American forces in Tokyo, then a devastated city. A keen printmaker, he immediately
sought out fellow practitioners, and very soon got to know Onchi Koshiro (1889-1955)
and Munakata Shiko (1903-1975), now considered the two most important Japanese
graphic artists of the twentieth century. During his brief sojourn in Japan, Hacker
acquired works by both of these and a number of their fellows, many of whom were
later to become prominent figures. He also took many photographs which are already
of great interest.
In 1994, Ernst Hackers widow, Lucia Vernarelli, herself an active painter
in New York, gave this archive to the British Museum, including also correspondence
with Onchi and his son Onchi Junio, and a selection of prints by Hacker himself.
They illustrate the mutual influences of Japan and the West and the extraordinary
resilience of Japanese artists in a country then ruined by war and seemingly without
a future. Lucia died in April 1995. This display acknowledges her gift, and celebrates
the fiftieth anniversary of Ernst Hackers Japanese visit. Two prints by
his fellow artist-soldiers, John Sheppard and Alonzo Freeman, have been kindly
lent by Onchi Junio.