The paintings and woodblock-printed books in the Japan Gallery’s current rotation are recently discovered gems from the Richard Lane Collection, which the museum purchased in 2003. Since January 2012, three groups of rare book specialists based in Japan have helped us in cataloguing more than 4,550 woodblock-printed books. Since August 2014, furthermore, painting specialists from Korea and Japan have been reviewing the hanging scrolls, hand scrolls, and folding screens in the Lane Collection, and more than 850 works have been carefully researched and vetted. Learn more about how researchers have helped us to better understand the collection here, here, and here.
This art rotation focuses on falconry and aviary culture in early modern Japan. Bird-and-flower paintings, a popular genre in Asian art, typically express the artists’ love of nature. Beyond such sentimental meaning, however, these images offer insight into the leisure activities of samurai and nobles. The Book of Hawks (Kokin taka no sho), illustrated by Torii Kiyomasu I (active c. 1687–1716) around 1687, pictured above, shows a fearsome bird tethered to a branch on the left page, while on the right, an equally vicious bird snags its prey—a helpless stork—in midair. The stern looks on the creatures’ faces invite us to imagine those of their owners—unquestionably proud soldiers themselves. In another example, an anonymous sketch for a painting (funpon) functions as an anatomical study of a falcon, listing such noteworthy features as the bird’s individual tail feathers.
As research about the artworks in his collection continues, our understanding of Richard Lane as a discerning art historian increases in equal measure.
This rotation in the Japan Gallery continues until August 20, 2017.
Made possible by the Robert F. Lange Foundation.
Pictured at top:
Torii Kiyomasu I (active c. 1696–1716)
The Book of Hawks (Kokin Takanosho)
Edo period (1615–1868), 1687
Woodblock-printed book; ink on paper
Purchase, Richard Lane Collection, 2003 (2006.0281)