ASIA WEEK AUTUMN 2024
Japanese Paintings, Prints, and Illustrated Books, 1760-1810
March 15 – 22, 2024
Special Asia Week Hours: Open daily, 11am-5pm (closed Sunday)
Our spring exhibition explores the graphic culture of Edo in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The introduction of color printing in the 1760s led to new techniques which were quickly adopted by the skilled craftsmen employed by the publishers of the period. The exhibition also chronicles changes in fashions and political affairs that affected the world of ukiyo-e, both in representations of the licensed entertainment quarter of the Yoshiwara and the city at large. Suzuki Harunobu (1724–1770) and his contemporaries are represented as are his successors in the following decades such as Torii Kiyonaga and Kitagawa Utamaro.
Poetry circles, already a significant source of patronage for artists such as Harunobu, flourished during the 1770s and 1780s. The samurai and wealthy merchants who formed much of their membership enjoyed rowdy, alcohol-fueled parties where they rubbed shoulders with celebrities including leading actors and the highest-ranking courtesans. Poets such as Ōta Nanpō (Shokusanjin, 1749–1823) and Akera Kankō (1740‒1799) worked with the publisher Tsutaya Jūzaburō (1750–1797) to promote the literary efforts of the participants, resulting in numerous kyōka anthologies illustrated by leading artists such as Kitao Masanobu (Santō Kyōden, 1761–1816), and Utamaro. The exhibition features several important examples including a fine copy of Kyōden’s masterwork Yoshiwara Courtesans: A New Mirror Comparing the Calligraphies of Beauties.
Also offered are a representative selection of beauty and actor prints from the 1790s and a group of drawings, prints, and paintings from the turn of the century by Katsushika Hokusai (1760‒1849). Of these, the most important is Telescope, long regarded as a masterpiece by the artist and one of three known specimens. A painting of Kumagai Naozane Riding Backwards on an Ox was last seen in public at an exhibition of Hokusai’s work organized by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun held in Moscow during the 1960s.
Kubo Shunman, a contemporary of Utamaro, was a painter deeply involved with the Edo poetry circles both as an artist and an author. He is represented in the exhibition by a fine painting on silk of a courtesan and her attendant with a cat.
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