A sweeping and lavishly illustrated overview of a transformative era in Japanese art-making, as told through superb examples from the finest private collection of Edo period painting in the United States.
By Rachel Saunders and Yukio Lippit
Available March 2020
164 pages; 9 3/4 × 11 1/2 in.
215 color & b/w illustrations
Published by Harvard Art Museums
Distributed by Yale University Press
Japan’s Edo period (1615–1868) witnessed the arrival of peace after centuries of warfare, together with increased urbanization brought about by economic prosperity and population growth. The arts of the period flourished in turn, both reflecting and inflecting these fertile conditions. A diverse and immensely prolific crop of artists drew from tradition and the classical past while finding new means to depict contemporary life. Painting Edo: Selections from the Feinberg Collection of Japanese Art explores this rich visual culture, highlighting works from the unparalleled collection of Robert and Betsy Feinberg to showcase the masters of various Edo schools and lineages.
Beautiful illustrations of the finest paintings from this celebrated collection punctuate the catalogue’s two essays. First, Yukio Lippit situates the works within a broad cultural history of early modern Japan: he weaves discussion of the era’s techniques, formats, and modes of display into ten framing narratives that consider such concepts as the “true view” and the “floating world,” among several others. Rachel Saunders then focuses on the career of a single artist, Sakai Hōitsu, wading into the literal and figural weeds of his late “bird-and-flower paintings” to emerge with a fresh perspective on these exquisitely layered, symbolically loaded pictorial gardens. Together, these essays unpack the literary, artistic, and cultural histories that form the basis for how these masterful works would have been received in their time—and for how we can best understand them today.
The related exhibition, Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection, which coincides with the runup to the 2020 Olympics in Japan, is on display at the Harvard Art Museums from February 14 to July 26, 2020.
Rachel Saunders is the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Associate Curator of Asian Art at the Harvard Art Museums. Yukio Lippit is professor of history of art and architecture at Harvard University.
This exhibition was made possible in part by the Robert H. Ellsworth Bequest to the Harvard Art Museums. Additional support was provided by the Melvin R. Seiden and Janine Luke Fund for Publications and Exhibitions, the Thierry Porte Director’s Discretionary Fund for Japanese Art, the Anthony and Celeste Meier Exhibitions Fund, the Alexander S., Robert L., and Bruce A. Beal Exhibition Fund, and the Rabb Family Exhibition Fund. Additionally, this project was supported by a generous grant from the Japan Foundation. Exhibition-related programming is generously supported by the M. Victor Leventritt Lecture Series Endowment Fund as well as Harvard University’s Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies and the History of Art and Architecture’s Rockefeller Fund.
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