240 pages, 200 colour plates
A much-anticipated harbinger of spring, the cherry blossom is also exemplary of the Japanese artistic aesthetic--a delight in simple, natural beauty and an attentiveness to the changing seasons. This spring will mark the centennial of Japan's gift of three thousand cherry trees to Washington, DC, and this sumptuously illustrated catalogue is the companion to a celebratory exhibition at the National Gallery of Art featuring the work of Ito Jakuchu.
Jakuchu (1716-1800), a wealthy wholesaler and talented painter, is, in Japan, the most recognized artist of the premodern era. His thirty-scroll set of bird-and-flower paintings titled "Colorful Realm of Living Beings" is a renowned cultural treasure, one of the most beautiful and skilled examples of how the natural world is depicted and symbolized in Japanese art. Presenting gorgeous flora and fauna in meticulous detail, the scrolls are reunited here with Jakuchu's triptych of the Buddha Sakyamuni from the Zen monastery Shokokuji in Kyoto. This stunning volume reproduces these masterpieces of Edo-period art and complements them with extensive background material on their significance. Recent conservation of the scrolls has revealed new information about the materials and techniques used by Jakuchu, and those findings are discussed in the volume, offering a multifaceted understanding of the artist's virtuosity and innovation as a painter.
As the first English-language examination and overseas display of Jakuchu's "Colorful Realm" in its entirety, the book and exhibition will offer new audiences a chance to encounter this landmark work-generously lent by the Imperial Household Agency, Tokyo.
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Yukio Lippit is professor of Japanese art at Harvard University.