Exhibition: Boston Museum of Fine Arts Ukiyo-e Collection

Ama Divers with Abalone
by Kitagawa Utamaro

One of the effects of Japan's Westernization was an exaggerated devaluing of everything Japanese. In the rush to import cheap European prints showing milkmaids in the Alps or cherubs, the Japanese threw out much of their own print art. Ukiyo-e prints were famously scrunched up for packing material or worse. While occasionally they were even able to fool some gullible gaijin into parting with a few coppers for a whole sheaf of Hokusai prints!

Strangely a lot of these 'fools' came from New England, which explains why the Boston Museum of Fine Arts now owns about 57,000 ukiyo-e prints and about 700 of the paintings on which the prints were based. This exhibition features about 80 high quality ukiyo-e paintings from the collection donated to the museum by Dr. William Bigelow. Among the artists represented are Hishikawa Moronobu, Kitagawa Utamaro, and Katsushika Hokusai. This is the first time since the Meiji period that many of these works have been back to Japan.

Runs to August 27, Nagoya/Boston Museum of Art.

August, 2006
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