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Masterpieces of Edo Paintings and Prints

04 Sep - 28 Oct 2018
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The exhibition “Masterpieces of Edo Paintings and Prints” is a highlight of the Russian-Japanese Bilateral Year. Over 135 paintings and prints of masters representing various traditional Japanese schools of art will be featured at the exhibition. Many of these have become iconic art works for the Japanese culture and are very rarely exhibited overseas. The exhibition is the first event allowing the Russian public to see the entire spectrum of trends and schools from one of the most interesting periods in the history of Japanese art. This exhibition was organized under the sponsorship of PAO NK Rosneft.

Most of the art works are brought in from Japan and will be displayed in Russia for the first time. Two art works have the status of “National Treasure,” ten items are considered “Important Cultural Property,” and another five items are “Important Art Objects.”

The exhibition in the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts will be run in 2 sessions: the first part will be displayed September 4–30, and the second part can be viewed October 3–28. The exhibition must be split into sessions because the exhibits are fragile: paintings on paper and silk are very delicate items that require special procedures for transportation, storage, and exhibition. According to the national standards of Japan, such art works cannot be displayed in the exhibition halls longer than four weeks. In fact, the visitors will be able to see two completely different exhibitions. Items from both sessions share equally high artistic value.

Exhibition curators: Hiroyoshi Tazawa, Director of the Curatorial Research Department at the Tokyo National Museum; Aynura Yusupova, Senior Researcher of the Department of Prints, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts.

    • The Edo period (1603–1868) in Japan saw the emergence of many artistic trends and schools. After a long period of civil strife, the Tokugawa shogun clan came to power in Japan and ruled for 265 years. This was the longest ruling dynasty since the Heian period. The fighting ceased and the traditional arts and crafts started to develop. Military leader Tokugawa Ieyasu made Edo the capital, and it became the political and economic center of the shogunate. In less than 50 years Edo grew from a small fishing village to a city of 500,000 citizens.
    • The Edo period saw rapid urban development and a thriving artistic culture. Towns emerged around castles, at the crossings of trade routes, and near bays with harbors. Meanwhile, new estates arose for merchants and craftsmen, who, together with the military, established the artistic tastes of the period. In the preceding historical periods, religious artifacts were mostly kept by the monasteries and temples, and secular art belonged to the aristocrats. During the Edo period, however, wealthy merchants and citizens could afford to order art objects. This became possible due to the development of book printing and the art of printing on wood, called Ukiyo-e.
    • Among trends represented in the exhibition, Kano is the most influential school of art from the Edo period, which became popular throughout all of Japan’s regions. Its legacy will be complemented by works of authentic masters of various Kyoto schools, including Ogata Kōrin, Maruyama Ōkyo, Yosa Buson, Itō Jakuchū, and Soga Shōhaku, who flourished in the middle of the Edo period. The art works representing the Ukiyo-e school will include early examples of prints from the 18th century as well as prints from the late Edo period. It was the Ukiyo-e prints from the late 19th century that influenced Western artists so much that it led to the emergence of a new artistic trend of “Japonism.”
    • The Pushkin State Museum exhibition will include various Japanese painting and printing genres: landscapes, portraits, genre scenes, and historical scenes. Visitors will see a scroll with the portrait of poet Li Bo by Ikeno Taiga, scrolls with illustrations for Ise Monogatari (“The Tales of Ise,” 10th century) and Genji Monogatari (“The Tale of Genji,” 10th–11th centuries) believed to have been written by the lady-in-waiting Murasaki Shikibu, and the scrolls of “Essays in Idleness” written by the monk Yoshida Kenkō (14th century). Landscape art is a special focal point of the exhibition. Two thematic trends will be represented: “water and mountains,” the symbols of the polar dual opposites in Eastern philosophy (yin and yang, dark and light, the female and male principles), and “birds and flowers,” which is a popular motif in the landscape art of minor forms. Most of the paintings are done with mineral or water-soluble paint on silk or paper, while most of the prints are wood prints.
    • The forms and shapes of the art works also vary: there will be a series of paintings on screens and partitions that were used to divide living spaces (there is a special term in the Japanese language for this kind of art – shoheiga). Vertical scrolls called kakemono or kakejiku, will also be on display. In Japanese homes these usually hang in recessed spaces called tokonoma, which were specifically designed to display items for artistic appreciation. Horizontal scrolls called emakimono typically contained a narration, and they were designed to be examined by gradually unrolling them.
    • Marina Loshak, Director of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts: “For over 100 years the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts has acquainted the public with art works from the Japanese culture, whether retrieved from its own collections or from Japanese holdings. Our museum has one of the best collections of Japanese color prints in Russia. We have displayed them many times in the Pushkin Museum and in various cities of Russia and Japan. I hope that the new opportunity for the Russian audience to appreciate the Japanese art of the Edo period will help them to discover new treasures and create unforgettable memories of the year of Japan in Russia.”
    • Aynura Yusupova, Exhibition Curator: “The exhibition of painting and prints of the Edo period in the Pushkin Museum is a unique event. In Soviet and modern Russian history such exhibitions happened once in a decade. This exhibition also stands out compared to previous exhibitions brought from Japan because truly iconic art works of Japanese art are coming to Russia, such as the “Wind God and Thunder God,” a painting on a pair of folding screens by artist Ogata Kōrin. This art work appears on the covers of many books on the history of Japanese art.”
    • This exhibition is organized in partnership with the Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan, Tokyo National Museum, Chiba City Museum of Art, and Itabashi Art Museum (Tokyo), which are in possession of rare collections of art works from the Edo period. In addition to the selected items from Japanese collections, the exhibition will feature a number of paintings from the holdings of Russia’s Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and State Museum of Oriental Art.
    • The general sponsor of the project, PAO NK Rosneft, has made tremendous financial contributions in order to help arrange this event. Historically, Rosneft has actively supported many unique events organized by the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, such as the exhibition “Rafael. Poetry of Image. Artworks from the Uffizi Gallery and Other Italian Collections,” which took place in the autumn of 2016, and the exhibition “Color and Sound,” presented during the International Music Festival “December Nights of Sviatoslav Richter” in December 2014. The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts extends thanks to the Rosneft company for the long-term partnership and invaluable support that enables us to bring unique masterpieces of Japanese art to the Russian people.
    • Also, we have prepared an extensive educational program, which started long before the opening of the exhibition. In July and August the Pushkin State Museum hosted lectures on Japanese history, art, and culture, as well as workshops on traditional Japanese ink-painting and calligraphy. In the fall program leading Japanese and Russian experts will deliver nine lectures on key features of Edo culture. In addition, there will be a special event in October: masters of traditional Ukiyo-e art will give a demonstration on wood print techniques. This demonstration is being organized in collaboration with the Japan Foundation.
04 Sep - 28 Oct 2018
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