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Blanton Hosts First Exhibition of Japanese Art in Twenty Years
Itö Shinsui (1898 – 1972), Eyebrow Pencil. Japan, Shöwa period, 1928. Color woodblock print 28 x 40 cm. Gift of James A. Michener, 1984.
AUSTIN, TX.- The Blanton Museum of Art presents Exquisite Visions of Japan, a special exhibition of Japanese woodblock prints from the James A. Michener Collection of the Honolulu Academy of Arts. The exhibition provides viewers a rare opportunity to examine the history of the medium from its inception in the 17th century through the 20th century, highlighting the techniques, processes and subjects that characterize these remarkable works. It includes fifty prints from master Japanese printmakers including Kitagawa Utamaro, Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige. Ann Wilson, interim director of the Blanton states, "Japanese prints are among the most beautiful and accessible works of art in any medium. The Blanton is delighted to bring this wonderful collection to Austin as our special summer exhibition. We think visitors will also enjoy reflecting on this very different aspect of Michener's collecting interests in the gallery building named for him."

Ukiyo-e prints, many examples of which are included in this exhibition, are among the most beautiful and recognizable works of Japanese art. Depicting images of the “floating world” including landscapes, history, theater, sumo wrestlers, courtesans and interiors, these mass produced prints emerged during Japan’s Edo period (1603 – 1868). By the mid 1800’s the prints were being exported to the West, and became a source of inspiration (coined Japonisme) for many leading European artists of the time including the Impressionists, Symbolists and Cubists.

Exquisite Visions of Japan serves as an eastern counterpart to The Language of Prints - on view at the Blanton through August 17th - and combined, the exhibitions provide a thorough examination of the history of printmaking, exploring the practices and artistic traditions across the continents. The exhibition also celebrates the collection of a long-standing friend and benefactor of the museum and the University of Texas. The distinguished writer, James A. Michener, was an important supporter of not only the Honolulu Academy, but of the Blanton Museum as well, having donated his significant collection of 20th-century American masterworks to the University. Japanese prints were another passion of Michener’s, and he became quite an accomplished scholar in the field. In the 1950’s he wrote several books and articles on the subject, including The Floating World (1954), one of the first book-length studies of Japanese prints published in English. While living in Hawaii, Michener established a relationship with the Honolulu Academy and began donating a portion of his 5,400 prints to their collection. Exquisite Visions of Japan offers viewers an opportunity to explore these extraordinary works, which, in Michener’s words, “will gladden the mind and quicken the eye.”





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