Harari and History

March 21, 2013

The Four Sleepers On April 5, we’re excited to open the new exhibition Focus on the Subject: The Art of the Harari Collection. This exhibition will run through  March 30, 2014 in the Frank and Toshie Mosher Gallery of Japanese Art, and includes a full object rotation in October to accommodate a greater number of objects and protect them from extended exposure to light.

The renowned Harari Collection of Japanese Edo (1603–1868) and Meiji (1868–1912) era paintings and drawings is one of the most significant groups of works on paper at Pacific Asia Museum. Amassed in London during the 1950s and 60s by Ralph Harari, the collection includes ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world,” recently seen in our exhibition Masterpieces of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi); important paintings and sketches by Hokusai, Hiroshige and their schools; paintings by Kano, Tosa, Nanga, and Shijo schools; and decorative paintings including fans. In the 1980s, Pacific Asia Museum acquired the majority of this collection with the support of several generous donors. Previously, objects from this large collection have been featured in the exhibitions 40 Years of Building the Pacific Asia Museum Collection in 2011 and Reflections of Beauty: Women from Japan’s Floating World in 2006, among others.

Daruma Carrying a CourtesanFocus on the Subject: The Art of the Harari Collection
features selected works from this group, and shows how Japanese painters and artisans shared their appreciation for certain subjects like landscapes, physical beauty, poetry and more. These recurring themes found in the paintings are also found elsewhere in the Pacific Asia Museum collection in objects like ceramics, textiles, lacquerware and sculpture. By looking at a few of the finest examples of Harari Collection paintings alongside related objects, you’ll see these themes from multiple perspectives for a fuller understanding of Japanese art and culture.

As mentioned above, key objects in the exhibition include several examples of ukiyo-e. One such work is Daruma Carrying a Courtesan Across a Stream by Ogawa Ritsuo (1663-1747) (at left). Daruma is the Japanese name for Bodhidharma, the Indian monk who is believed to have taken Buddhism from India to China in the 6th century C.E. In Japan, Daruma is regarded as the founder and patriarch of Zen Buddhism and is often depicted as a sullen monk with large, staring eyes and wearing a red robe as seen here. In the Edo period, his image often appeared in ukiyo-e paintings and prints beside beautiful courtesans in a humorous juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness. The two figures are often depicted wearing each other’s clothing, though not in the case of this painting.

Make sure to catch both rotations of this exhibition by visiting this spring and later in the fall– you won’t want to miss the beautiful works in either rotation. ~CM


Tsunemasa, The Four Sleepers, Japan, c. 1745, Ink, color and gold pigment on paper, Pacific Asia Museum Collection, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Kamansky, 1988.65.2

Ogawa Ritsuo, Daruma Carrying a Courtesan Across a Stream, Japan, c. 1740, Ink, color, gofun on paper, Pacific Asia Museum Collection, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Calvin Frazier, 1986.67.2


Art and Coffee: Hokusai Edition

August 18, 2011

After a strong start last month, Art and Coffee continued last Friday as our curator Bridget gave a fascinating talk on two Hokusai pieces, Mt. Fuji in Clear Weather and Eagle in a Snowstorm, both of which are currently on display in 40 Years of Building the Pacific Asia Museum Collection in the “Beauty of Nature” section. Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) was a prolific artist of painting and woodblock prints, specifically ukiyo-e, during Japan’s Edo period.

Hokusai’s career began with early exposure to both the publishing industry and printmaking. As a young man he was a book merchant for a time, and also apprenticed a printmaker at a studio. At various points in his long career, Hokusai signed his name differently referring to how he saw himself within the artistic community. As a young artist, he used his master teacher’s name incorporated into his own. By the end of his career, his signature translated to “Old Man Mad with Painting.” Indeed, the quote included in the Eagle in a Snowstorm label states “…nothing I did before the age of 70 was worthy of attention…if I keep trying…at 130 or 140 or more, I will have reached a stage where every dot and every stroke I paint will be alive.”

Mt. Fuji in Clear Weather is part of Hokusai’s most famous collection of works, Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji (which actually grew larger than thirty-six over time, and would later be followed by One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji). This collection captures the landmark peak from several angles and contexts. The entire composition is done in a single line, and the detail is done through just a few color fields, even using the character of the wood blocks themselves. “You can actually see the grain of the cherry block,” Bridget said. “Also, you can see how at the base, it looks like someone dragged something through the ink. That’s a gradation effect called bokashi– it takes a high level of technical skill to do this.”

Eagle in a Snowstorm, part of the great Harari collection, is one of the standout works in the whole exhibition. The eagle braces against a fierce wind, with visible tension in his claws gripping the stone. “You can actually see how the wind exposed the bird’s skin under the feathers,” said Bridget. “I think that’s part of the charm of this composition…he’s also worked a fine architecture of the feathers. The structured tail feathers are different from the downy feathers we see on the breast and wing.” Hokusai created a wet snow effect surrounding the bird by flinging the paint-coated brush at the canvas to get a spatter pattern, further heightening the bleak environment against which the eagle struggles.

These two pieces are best appreciated in person, where you can examine the energy and concentration in each stroke. Because they are so sensitive to light, we don’t get to display them as often as we’d like– come visit them while you can!~CM

Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849). Mt. Fuji in Clear Weather. Japan, Edo Period (1603–1868); c. 1830, Woodblock print on paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Everett A. Palmer Jr.

Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) Eagle in a Snowstorm. Japan, Edo Period (1603–1868); 1848. Color and gofun on paper,  Signed: ‘Gakyorojin Manji yowai Hachijuhassai’; Seal: ‘Hakyu’. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. George A. Brumder with Funds for Conservation Provided by Dr. Cathleen A. Godzik in Memory of Her Father.