77 Dances: Japanese Calligraphy 
by Poets, Monks, and Scholars, 1568-1868

Benice
  • Exhib_slideshow_77dances1

    Hayashi Döei (1640 - 1708), "Flowery Purity Palace," Japan, Edo period, Hand scroll; ink on paper, 29.2 x 241.4 cm, Catalog No. 17a

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    Fügai Ekun (1568 - 1654), "Six Windows Shut," Japan, Edo period, Hanging scroll; ink on paper, 28.5 x 40.3 cm, Catalog No. 57

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May 08, 2008 - July 13, 2008
Gallery 14


Exhibition Overview

In East Asia, calligraphy has been considered the highest of all forms of art for more than 15 centuries. The Japanese believe that calligraphy reveals the artist’s personality. In 77 Dances: Japanese Calligraphy by Poets, Monks, and Scholars, 1568-1868, hanging scrolls, fan paintings, albums, poem cards, and ceramics examine the flowering of the art of writing during Japan’s early modern period. Each piece gives viewers a glimpse into the culture that held calligraphy in such high esteem. For the first time, Western audiences can see a full range of early modern Japanese calligraphy. With calligraphy’s emphasis on movement and timing, each of the 77 works in the exhibition is compared to a dance.

The show focuses on artwork created during the Momoyama and Edo periods (1568-1868), when Japan was ruled by powerful shoguns, the arts flourished, and interest in calligraphy was revitalized. During this early modern period, peace and prosperity replaced civil warfare, thus artistic production and patronage was greater than ever. The appreciation of calligraphy is due in part to the noble position held by the scholar-artist and the expressive potential of more than 50,000 characters written in six different forms of scripts with an infinite number of graphic variations. Calligraphy was practiced by classical and Chinese-style poets, Confucian scholars, literati artists, Zen monks, devotees of courtly waka poetry, and haiku. Although scripts and styles may be viewed in historical and cultural contexts, the primary focus of the exhibition revolves around an understanding of the works as individual dances of line and form in space.

Organized by the University of Richmond Museums, the exhibition was curated by internationally known Japanese-art historian Stephen Addiss, Tucker-Boatwright Professor in the Humanities-Art and Professor of Art History at the University of Richmond. The exhibition and publication are made possible in part with the generous support of The Blakemore Foundation, The Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art Studies, with additional funding from the University of Richmond’s Cultural Affairs Committee and the Louis S. Booth Arts Fund.

In addition to the Honolulu Academy of Arts, 77 Dances: Japanese Calligraphy by Poets, Monks, and Scholars, 1568-1868 will travel to the Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama; the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York; and the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, Delray Beach, Florida.

Get the catalog
The first book on Japanese calligraphy from the significant Momoyama and Edo periods, 77 Dances examines the art of writing at a time when it was undergoing a remarkable flowering, as illustrated by more than 100 sumptuous illustrations. Everything from complex Zen conundrums to gossamer haiku poems were written with verve, energy, and creativity that display how deeply the fascination for calligraphy had penetrated into the social fabric of Japan. Published by Shambhala Publications.
Available in the Academy Shop. Hardcover: $65. 

The first book on Japanese calligraphy that covers the significant Momoyama and Edo Periods (1568-1868), 77 Dances examines the art of writing at a time when it was undergoing a remarkable flowering, as illustrated by over one hundred sumptuous illustrations. Everything from gossamer haiku poems were written with verve, energy, and creativity that display how deeply the fascination for calligraphy had penetrated into the social fabric of Japan. Examining the varied groups of calligraphers creating works for diverse audiences will show how these artistic worlds both maintained their own independence and interacted to create a rich brocade of calligraphic techniques and styles.

The book begins with basic information on calligraphy, followed by six main sections, each representing a major facet of the art, with an introductory essay followed by detailed analyses of the seventy-seven featured works. The essays include:

  • The revival of Japanese courtly aesthetics in writing out waka poems on highly decorated paper
  • The use of Chinese writing styles and script forms
  • Scholars who took up the brush to compose poems in Chinese expressing their Confucian ideals
  • Calligraphy by major literati poets and painters
  • The development of haiku as practiced by master poet-painters

The work of famous Zen masters such as Hakuin and RyokanBy Stephen Addiss, 2006. 259 pages, Hardcover.