Richard Lane and the Floating World

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October 30, 2008 - February 01, 2009
Gallery 14

Exhibition Overview

In 2003, the Honolulu Academy of Arts acquired nearly 20,000 paintings, prints, and rare books from the collection of Richard Lane (1926-2002). A noted scholar of Japanese art and literature from the Edo period (1615-1868), Lane lived in Japan for nearly 50 years, during which time he wrote dozens of articles and books, establishing a reputation as one of the foremost experts on Japanese ukiyo-e, “images of the floating world.” Lane had strong ties to Hawai‘i, beginning with his appointment to the Academy as Research Associate for Ukiyo-e in 1959. Lane maintained his connections with Honolulu throughout his career, as an advisor to the Academy and to woodblock print collector James A. Michener, whose collection forms the core of the museum’s world-famous ukiyo-e collection.

For the past five years, the Academy has worked with an interdisciplinary team of international experts to catalogue and evaluate the Lane Collection. This exhibition marks the museum’s public debut of works from the collection, focusing on the floating world of ukiyo-e, a genre that was a core interest for Lane throughout his life, and for which he was best known. Most of the works in the exhibition are “new discoveries,” previously unpublished and undocumented paintings. Many were conserved by the Academy’s Asian Painting Conservation Center, under the supervision of East Asian Art Conservator Ephraim Jose.

The Lane Collection is especially strong in ukiyo-e paintings, from early depictions such as Beauty Writing a Letter (2008.308) to fully developed masterpieces by the dominant ukiyo-e schools likeBijin and Attendant (2008.313) by Torii Kiyotada II.

One notable discovery is the anonymous work Taiyu with Phoenix Robe (2008.10), pictured left, a superb painting of a high-ranking courtesan dressed in an elaborate kimono with a phoenix design, reflecting the extremes of conspicuous consumption in the pleasure quarters during the 19th century.

Through his lifelong dedication to Japanese art, Richard Lane increased the world’s appreciation for the depth and breadth of ukiyo-e, not only through classic images of the Yoshiwara and the Kabuki Theaters, but also through surprising, even startling, examples of artists, subjects, and periods often overlooked. The legacy of his collection at the Honolulu Academy of Arts continues this mission to astonish and delight the viewer with the comprehensive range encompassed by the floating world.

Richard Lane and the Floating World is guest curated by Dr. Scott Johnson from Kansai University in Osaka, Japan.