Paths of Gold: Japanese Landscape and Narrative Paintings from the Collection

Posted on Nov 9 by Leslie Dinaberg

Views of Itsukushima and Wakanoura (detail), Japanese, Edo period, mid-17th century. Ink, color, and gold leaf on paper; pair of six-panel folding screens. SBMA, Museum Purchase, Peggy and John Maximus Fund.

Views of Itsukushima and Wakanoura (detail), Japanese, Edo period, mid-17th century. Ink, color, and gold leaf on paper; pair of six-panel folding screens. SBMA, Museum Purchase, Peggy and John Maximus Fund.

Choice selections from Santa Barbara Museum of Art‘s extensive Japanese painting collection are on view beginning Saturday, November 10, in the new exhibit Paths of Gold: Japanese Landscape and Narrative Paintings from the Collection.

Traditional Japanese houses were constructed of wood with paper windows and doors, and rice-straw matting (tatami mats) covering the floors. Each room—separated by sliding door panels—was like a virtual blank slate that could be repurposed and redecorated to suit each purpose, and, for certain occasions, could be outfitted with glistening screens and objects of color and gold.

Screens were changed seasonally or commissioned specifically for a celebration, a gathering of like minded friends, or a political assembly. A gilded screen enhanced the ambient light in a room, and at the same time, impressed, or even humbled visitors as it reflected the wealth or status of the patron.

Crows in Early Winter (detail), Kishi Chikudō, Japanese, 1826-1897. Ink and color on gold ground; pair of six-panel folding screens. SBMA, Museum purchase with funds provided by Lord and Lady Ridley-Tree, Priscilla Giesen, and special funds.

Crows in Early Winter (detail), Kishi Chikudō, Japanese, 1826-1897. Ink and color on gold ground; pair of six-panel folding screens. SBMA, Museum purchase with funds provided by Lord and Lady Ridley-Tree, Priscilla Giesen, and special funds.

This exhibition examines the aesthetics of Japanese art within both private and public interiors by showcasing nine folding screens, two scroll paintings, and examples of lacquerware selected from the permanent collection, supplemented by two local loans. Paths of Gold features screens dating from the 16th through the 19th centuries, at the end of which Japan opened to European and American trade.

Among the treasures in the exhibition is a lavishly decorated 17th-century set of three handscrolls, attributed to Tosa Mitsuoki (1617–1691). Painted with exquisite mineral pigments and gold, The Tale of Bunshō narrates a story about the rise of the merchant class and the struggles of women. On display as well are a hanging scroll and screen paintings from the Meiji era (1868–1912), a time when formats and subjects were introduced for the newly-conceived public exhibition hall. Also on display are examples of lacquerware from the collection, decorated with various gold techniques, adding to the multi-faceted painterly splendor in the Japanese interior.

This exhibition is co-curated by Hollis Goodall, Curator of Japanese Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Susan Tai, Elizabeth Atkins Curator of Asian Art at SBMA. It is on view November 10, 2018 – February 10, 2019. The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is located at 1130 State St. in downtown Santa Barbara. It is open Tuesday – Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with Free Thursday Evenings from 5 – 8 p.m. For more information, call 805/963-4364, or visit www.sbma.net.

Leslie Dinaberg

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