250-Year-Old Japanese Paintings to be Shown in Washington DC

Monks from Shokokuji Monastery in Japan perform a blessing ceremony over a 30-scroll set of paintings from the 1700s, considered a cultural treasure of Japan, Monday, March 26, 2012, at The National Gallery of Art in Washington. The museum displays the bird-and-flower paintings that date back to 1716 to mark the centennial of Japan's gift of 3,000 cherry trees to the nation's capital. AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin.

A 30-scroll set of nature paintings from the 1700s that’s owned by Japan’s royal family and considered a cultural treasure is being shown in its entirety for the first time outside of the country at an exhibit in Washington.

The “Colorful Realm of Living Beings,” created more than 250 years ago by artist Ito Jakuchu, consists of intricate paintings of birds, flowers, insects, fish and other animals on vertical silk scrolls. It opens to the public Friday at the National Gallery of Art and will be on view through April 29.

For only the second time in 120 years, the nature paintings are paired with Jakuchu’s “Sakyamuni Triptych.” In this piece, three Buddhist deities overlook the bird-and-flower paintings to serve as the exhibit’s centerpiece. The pairing evokes the original religious context of the nature paintings as objects of worship, curators said.

Since 1889, the fragile silk scroll paintings have been held in separate locations. The nature paintings were donated to Japan’s royal family and held ever since by the world’s oldest monarchy. The Buddhist triptych is held at the monastery where Jakuchu originally left his works.

Even though his masterpieces are kept mostly out of view to help preserve them, Jakuchu has become Japan’s most famous pre-modern artist, said guest curator Yukio Lippit, a Harvard University professor of Japanese art. While his works were famous around the time they were painted, his achievements were later forgotten to a certain extent.

You can read the full article via ArtDaily here.  

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