Regal courtiers, lively townspeople, tragic heroines and virtuous deities in Japanese art are showcased in exquisite form in Styled with Poise: Figures in Japanese Painting and Prints, presented by ORIX Americas Miyauchi Charitable Foundation at the Crow Collection of Asian Art
in Downtown Dallas. On view Saturday, July 8, 2017, through Sunday, Jan. 7, 2018, this exhibition displays art from the Edo period (16031868), when a wide range of painting styles and significant developments in woodblock printmaking made visual art accessible to many in Japan.
"The development of woodblock prints allowed for more people to own pictures of their favorite kabuki actors or even of places people had visited - there was a surge in domestic travel, especially by the nineteenth century, said Midori Oka, guest curator of Styled with Poise. Depending on the popularity or demand for a specific image, hundreds and even thousands could have been printed, and they remain highly coveted today."
With the proliferation of woodblock prints, figures in hanging scrolls and screens began to adorn residences especially in the larger metropolitan areas such as in Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo (current-day Tokyo) during a time when interior decorations were previously quite sparse. While religious scrolls with important Buddhist figures for worship such as Amida Buddha and other bodhisattva hung in temple halls, depictions of people engaged in daily activities and other popular subjects were enjoyed in the homes of wealthier townsmen. Historical figures were often heralded as upholding the ideals of the past and even ghosts or figures who met unfortunate or untimely deaths came to be depicted in painted form.
Woodblock print production reached its zenith by around 1900 in terms of both artistry and production. Prints delighted the commoners since they could acquire a memento of their travels, a portrait of a favorite kabuki actor or even a portrait of a beautiful woman. Just as modern-day people gaze at celebrities in magazines and posters, the residents of Edo did the same with their woodblock prints of kabuki actors.
Woodblock prints were produced by a collaborative process among a publisher, artist, woodcutter and printer during the Edo period and into the Meiji era (1868-1912). They were discovered in the West as early as the late nineteenth century in France, when they were found as packing materials for tea from China and Japan. They continue to be popular items for collectors today.
This exhibition, which features unique works from the Minneapolis Institute of Art and from private collections in Boston and Dallas, draws together a variety of paintings and printed works to explore these many types of figures and figural representation in Japanese art.
A long-time collaborator with the Crow Collections curatorial team, curator and Japanese art scholar Midori Oka returns to the Crow Collection to serve as guest curator of Styled with Poise. Oka previously served as guest curator for Fierce Loyalty: A Samurai Complete, currently on view in the museums Samurai Gallery.
Oka has recently worked with notable museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, Providence. Oka holds a master of arts. from the University of Kansas where she specialized in later Edo period painting and is currently the associate director of the Burke Center for Japanese Art at Columbia University.