Monday, October 23, 2006

The Artist and the Book in Japan

Kitagawa Utamaro (1753-1806.) Shiohi no tsuto (Gifts from the Ebb Tide). Woodblock print, mica and brass dust, 1789.

Currently on at the New York Public Library:

The Japanese literary tradition, dating from as early as the 8th century, is among the richest and most enduring of any country in the world, and ehon, or "picture books," although little known in the West are one of the glories of world art.

Ehon: The Artist and the Book in Japan will demonstrate the variety of visual languages used by artists over many historical periods from 764 to 2005. It will include approximately 200 books with printed illustrations, as well as related manuscripts, drawings, woodblock prints, and photographs. Drawn from the Library's collections, a wide range of works will be featured, including two examples of Empress Shôtoku's Million Prayer Towers (764-770), Utamaro's celebrated Shiohi no tsuto (Gifts of the Ebb Tide, also known as The Shell Book, 1789), and Hokusai's Fugaku Hyakkei (One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji, 1834). The exhibition will also showcase more recent examples of Japanese book art, with books by some of the leading photographers of the 20th century, modernist books by artists like Koshiro Onchi, avant-garde works associated with early 20th-century movements such as MAVO, precursors of present-day anime, and works by internationally known contemporary artists like Hiroshi.
The website has two online electronic editions of texts:

Kitagawa Utamaro, Gifts of the Ebb Tide (The Shell Book) (Shiohi no tsuto) [Flash plug-in required]

Kamisaka Sekka, Flowers of a Hundred Worlds (Momoyogusa), volume 1 [Flash plug-in required]

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