Japan on Paper

, University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums
  • Traveling Hat with Spring Greens
  • Paper Nautilus
  • Okazaki, from the series Fifty-Three Stations of the Tōkaidō (Tōkaidō gojūsan tsugi)
  • A Cloudy Day in Mizuki, Ibaraki Prefecture (Mizuki no kumoribi [Ibaraki-ken])
  • Medium-sized hair-bristled brush, from a set of Japanese brushes
  • A Cloudy Day in Mizuki, Ibaraki Prefecture (Mizuki no kumoribi [Ibaraki-ken])
  • Ichikawa Danjūrō IX as Musashibō Benkei in The Subscription List (Kanjinchō)
  • Medium-sized hair-bristled brush, from a set of Japanese brushes
  • Small cutting tool, from a set for making Japanese woodblocks
  • Cylindrical hair-bristled brush, from a set of Japanese brushes
  • Small cutting tool (aisuki) with flat blade, from a set for making Japanese woodblocks
  • Carving tools for woodblock printing
  • Woman with Shamisen Reading
  • Perspective View of Shin Yoshiwara in the Evening (Uki-e Shin Yoshiwara yūgure zu)
  • Actor Matsumoto Kōshirō IV as Gorōbei, the Fishmonger from San'ya from the Play
  • Flower Shells (Hanagai), Ark Shells (Akagai) and Squirting Shells (Shiofukigai), from the series A Set of Shells (Kaizukushi)
  • Actor Segawa Kikujirō III in a Sukeroku Play
  • Shakkyō Dance, from the series Patterns for Collage Pictures (Oshi-e-gata)
  • The Dry-Shallows Shell (Minasegai), from the series The Poetry-Shell Matching Game of the Genroku Era (Genroku kasen kai awase)
  • Asakusa Ricefields and Torinomachi Festival (Asakusa tanbo Torinomachi mōde), from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei)
  • Hanabito of the Ōgiya, with kamuro Momiji and Sakura from the series New Year Fashions as Fresh as Young Leaves (Wakana hatsu ishō)
  • Actor Sawamura Sōjūrō III on a Boat
  • Actor Onoe Matsusuke I as Asahina
  • Ebira (Quiver) from the series Fashionable Nō Plays (Fūryū ryaku Nō)
  • Gifts of the Ebb Tide (Shiohi no tsuto)
  • Portrait of Poet Hagiwara Sakutarō
  • Impromptu Pleasures Afloat (Jōkyōshū)
  • Moon Viewing
  • Small hair-bristled brush, from a set of Japanese brushes
  • Woman Powdering Her Neck
  • Actor Ichikawa Komazō II in a Sukeroku Play
  • Puppeteer Holding a Puppet on a Go Board
  • The Monkey King Sun Wukong (Jp. Songokū)
  • Actors Segawa Kikujirō as Yaoya Oshichi and Sanjō Kantarō II as Koshō Kichisaburō
  • Woman Running to Escape a Sudden Shower
  • The Doll-Maker
  • Self-Portrait
  • A Cloudy Day in Mizuki, Ibaraki Prefecture (Mizuki no kumoribi [Ibaraki-ken])
  • Set of Four Pigment Brushes, from a set of Japanese printing tools
  • A Cloudy Day in Mizuki, Ibaraki Prefecture (Mizuki no kumoribi [Ibaraki-ken])
  • A Cloudy Day in Mizuki, Ibaraki Prefecture (Mizuki no kumoribi [Ibaraki-ken])
  • Large chisel (nomi), from a set for making Japanese woodblocks
  • Single-sided wooden printing block: fan-shaped Bunchō image of the actor Sanogawa Ichimatsu, from the series Ehon butai ogi
  • The Temple of the Five Hundred Arhats (Rakan), from the series Mount Fuji in the Four Seasons (Shiki no Fuji)
  • Actor Nakamura Tomisaburō I in a Sukeroku Play
  • Actor Sakata Hangorō II in a Sukeroku Play
  • Actor Ichikawa Monnosuke II in a Sukeroku Play
  • Young Women Fighting over a Theater Program
  • Mori yo! (Hey, Forest!)
  • Baren (used to rub the reverse of a woodblock print to transfer pigment)
  • Baren (used to rub the reverse of a woodblock print to transfer pigment)
  • Ono no Komachi from the series One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets (Hyakunin isshu)
  • Before the Mirror
  • Sazai Hall of the Temple of the Five Hundred Arhats (Gohyaku Rakan-ji Sazaidō), from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei)
  • Actor Matsumoto Koshirō II in a Sukeroku Play
  • Actors Ichikawa Danjūrō VII and His Son Ichikawa Ebizō VI (Danjūrō VIII)
  • Bow-shaped Crescent Moon (Yumiharizuki), from the series Twenty-eight Views of the Moon (Tsuki nijū hakkei no uchi)
University Study Gallery, Harvard Art Museums

Japanese woodblock prints, with their sophisticated designs and bold planes of color, have long attracted viewers and inspired Western artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Mary Cassatt. These technically refined and aesthetically exciting prints were among the earliest works of Asian art acquired by the Harvard Art Museums, first entering the collections in 1910. Today the museums house approximately 5,000 single-sheet Japanese woodblock prints, and this exhibition introduces a selection of superlative impressions from this lively medium. The exhibition also seeks to highlight the individuals whose generosity has made it possible for generations of Harvard students to encounter and learn from these works.

The exhibition features almost 50 works spanning the history of Japanese woodblock printing, from the 17th through 20th century; these include single-sheet prints, luxury surimono prints, printed handscrolls, and printed books by renowned designers such as Suzuki Harunobu (1725–1770), pioneer of the full-color print; landscape specialist Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858); enigmatic designer Sharaku (active 1794–95), best known for “big head” (ōkubi) actor prints; Itō Jakuchū (1716–1800); and the ever-popular Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849). Also included are modern “new print” (shin hanga) and “creative print” (sōsaku hanga) works by the leaders of these two 20th-century movements, as well as a selection of woodblock printing tools to enhance visitors’ understanding of the medium.

The exhibition also marks the first public presentation of the museums’ newest acquisition in the area of Japanese prints, a contemporary work by Noriko Saitō (b. 1973).

Curated by Quintana Heathman, former Curatorial Fellow in Japanese Art (2014–16); and Rachel Saunders, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Associate Curator of Asian Art, Harvard Art Museums.

Support for this exhibition was provided by Harvard University’s Edwin O. Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies and by the Harvard Art Museums’ Leopold (Harvard M.B.A. ’64) and Jane Swergold Asian Art Exhibitions and Publications Fund, Peter Drucker Research and Exhibition Fund, and José Soriano Fund.