Realism and the Natural Sciences in Japanese Woodblock Prints

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    Sūgakudō (active 1850s–1860s). 'Rooster and Indian Strawberries' From the series 'Forty-eight Lifelike Pictures of Birds.' Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), 1859. Woodblock print; ink and color on paper. Gift of James A. Michener, 2006 (28581)

April 26, 2018 - May 27, 2018
Honolulu Museum of Art


Exhibition Overview

Encyclopedic entries about the appearance of birds and flowers appear in Asian texts as early as the 3rd century BC, and realistic depictions of these subjects can be traced back to Chinese paintings from the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127). By the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the study and classification of birds and flowers developed widespread popularity within Japan, inspiring a thriving genre of woodblock prints. On view in this rotation are carefully rendered ornithological and botanical studies by Kitao Masayoshi (1764–1824, known also as Kuwagata Keisai) and Sūgakudō (active 1850s–1860s), in which the birds’ taxonomic names have been inscribed in Japanese by the artists. The alcove of the adjacent Japan Gallery features related works by the acclaimed designer Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858). See more animal art, but in the context of contemporary American art, in Abstruction: The Sculpture of Erick Swenson in the Henry R. Luce Gallery.

Made possible by the Robert F. Lange Foundation.