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Exploring the Arts of Japan

4 Session Evening Course

4 sessions from April 5 to April 26, 2022
Code: 1J0164
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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The Tale of Genji, chapter 2: Prince Genji’s visit to Utsusemi (Freer Gallery of Art)

Throughout the long history of Japan, Japanese visual arts adopted and adapted style elements of foreign cultures—Chinese, Korean, European—refining techniques, materials, and viewing practices to suit their own particular societal needs, ideas, and cultural practices.

Art historian Yui Suzuki examines timeless works by skilled Japanese artisans in their historical, religious, and political contexts. She highlights major traditional and innovative artistic traditions, including painting, sculpture, gardens, and woodblock prints, from the ninth century to the end of the 19th century.

April 5  Japanese Buddhist Sculpture

Buddhism was first introduced to Japan in the mid-sixth century and the religion had a profound impact on all aspects of Japanese culture and society. Buddhist statues of extraordinary artistic achievement were created and filled the interior spaces of resplendent Buddhist temples. Examine some of the representative sculptural works from the ninth to 14th centuries, including the Buddha Amida from Byodoin Temple in Kyoto.

April 12  The Yamato-e Painting Tradition

Japanese painting is complex and diverse, yet there are several pervasive characteristics that define this rich visual art form. One major genre of Japanese painting that developed in Japan’s Heian period (794–1185) is known as yamato-e—literally Japanese painting—coined as such in response to imported Chinese painting. Suzuki begins with an introduction to the basic painting formats used in yamato-e (hanging scrolls, folding screens, handscrolls), viewing practices, materials, and techniques. Then, she focuses on popular themes and formal conventions that characterize this painting genre through a number of iconic examples.

April 19  From Monochrome to Color: Ink Painting and Japanese Gardens

The aesthetics and principles found in the Japanese sculptural and painting traditions permeate many aspects of Japanese art forms, including gardens. Learn how these basic principles were applied to Japanese garden design through the lush, pleasure gardens of the Heian aristocracy to the austere rock gardens in Kyoto known as kare-san-sui (dry-mountain-water).

April 26  Japan’s Ukiyo-e Prints

Bold designs, rich colors, and exotic imagery were just some of the features that first drew people from the Western world to embrace the Japanese tradition of secular woodblock prints. Known as ukiyo-e, or images of the “floating world,” these 18th- and 19th-century scenes brought beautiful people, exciting places, and spectacular entertainments to the residents of Japan’s fast-growing population centers. Suzuki discusses the origins and history of the ukiyo-e tradition and its various print techniques.

4 sessions

World Art History Certificate core course: Earn 1 credit*

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*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1 core course credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.