“The Long Nineteenth Century in Japanese Woodblock Prints,” an exhibition featuring more than fifty superlative works from the distinguished private collection of Dr. Lee and Mary Jean Michels, will be on view through July 1, 2018 at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, located on the University of Oregon campus.
Many of the Japanese prints on view were selected, researched, and presented by seventeen students who participated in a spring 2017 seminar co-taught by Akiko Walley, Maude I. Kerns Associate Professor of Japanese Art in the Department of History of Art & Architecture, and Anne Rose Kitagawa, the JSMA’s chief curator and curator of Asian art.
The nineteenth century was a turning point in Japanese history, commonly associated with the transition from pre-modern feudal society of the Edo period (1615-1868) to the Western-style modernity of the Meiji Era (1868-1912). In the past, 1868 was considered to be a rupture, an overnight departure from Japanese/East Asian traditions in all aspects of culture and society, after the forcible opening of Japan by the American Commodore Matthew Perry’s “Black Ships” a decade earlier. However, recent studies have shown that the cultural shift from Edo to Meiji was more gradual. This exhibition explores this transitional moment in Japanese history through woodblock prints.
“For many years, Dr. Michels has generously shared his knowledge about and passion for Japanese prints with students, colleagues, and the wider community,” says Kitagawa. “We are proud that our students have been able to reciprocate his kindness and show their gratitude by doing original research on his collection and helping to organize this exhibition.”
Synthesizing the approaches of art history and museum studies, students learned about the history of Japanese prints and collecting as well as exhibition planning and design. With generous support from the Michels, they were able to examine, research, and discuss over 175 woodblock prints on array of themes (beauty, actor, landscape, game, and war, etc.), and to help conceptualize the exhibition, which incorporates information from their final papers.
Superlative works by Utagawa Kunisada (Toyokuni III, 1786-1865), Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892), Toyohara Kunichika (1835-1900), and Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915) are featured. In addition, Guide-by-Cell audio content provided by students will be available in the galleries.
The “Long Nineteenth Century” was funded with a JSMA Academic Support Grant and a Gordon W. Gilkey Endowed Fund from the Department of the History of Art and Architecture to produce a brochure.