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Cincinnati Art Museum celebrates transformative Weisman gift of Japanese prints
Bernice and Joel Weisman. Photograph courtesy of John E. Gilmore.

CINCINNATI, OH.- The Cincinnati Art Museum has acquired an extraordinary collection of 800 rare 17th–20th century Japanese prints from the late Joel Weisman and his wife Bernice Weisman. Announced at a museum donor event on Jan. 11, the Weisman gift is one of the largest permanent collection additions in the museum’s history.

The Weisman acquisition further strengthens the museum’s Japanese holdings and represents a broad spectrum of artists across the history of Japanese printmaking. The collection spans four centuries and includes colorful Edo and Osaka ukiyo-e woodcuts, shin hanga (new prints) and sōsaku hanga (creative prints). Thematically, the prints represent fine examples of bijinga or beautiful women, theatrical prints of actors, literature and legend, landscape, bird prints and surimono (privately printed prints).

Selections from the Weisman collection will be featured in the upcoming special exhibition Dressed to Kill: Japanese Arms & Armor. In 2006, the Weismans donated 82 prints, which were featured in the exhibition Public Spectacles, Personal Pleasures: Four Centuries of Japanese Prints from a Cincinnati Collection.

The Weismans began collecting Japanese prints in 1956. Over a lifetime, the couple established a comprehensive collection as a promised bequest to the Cincinnati Art Museum. Joel, who passed away in April 2016, focused on collecting to showcase the historical development of the prints. Bernice, a 30-year museum volunteer, explored the tradition of cats in 17th–20th century Japanese printmaking.

For Bernice, amassing the collection has been a joy and an ongoing adventure. “Collecting led us into a culture that we knew little about when we began. Discovering new facts and insights over the years has been incredibly rewarding,” she said.

In addition to their collection, the Weismans have given their extensive reference library, auction and dealers catalogues to the Mary R. Schiff Library to facilitate research on Japanese prints and art.

“This special gift from Joel and Bernice Weisman enables the Cincinnati Art Museum to grow and broaden our significant Japanese holdings. Cincinnati’s fascination with Japan is evidenced in the earliest of the museum’s collections and artistic exchanges. We are honored that Bernice and Joel chose the Cincinnati Art Museum as a home for a lifetime of collecting and study,” said Cameron Kitchin, Cincinnati Art Museum’s Louis and Louise Dieterle Nippert Director. “We are thrilled now to expand our study of Japanese art through the Weisman’s benefaction and personal collecting passion.”

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