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Past Exhibitions


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Legends, Tales, Poetry: Visual Narrative in Japanese Art

Sat Dec 22 2012 – Sun Jul 21 2013

Asian Art Museum

Tateuchi Galleries

SAM’s renowned Japanese art collection visually enacts stories told and retold over thousands of years. As the works themselves lend new interpretations to familiar stories, so does each installation. The works selected for this exhibition—scrolls, screens, prints, photographs, lacquer work, ceramics, and textiles—are telling examples of the rich visual portrayals in Japanese art from the 13th to the 21st century.

A vast literature of Buddhism, Shinto, and Daoism recounts the miraculous origins of temples and shrines; legendary episodes of Buddhist monks, Shinto deities, Daoist immortals; and the sacred land in which the gods reside. All of these fascinating literary narratives captured the imaginations of Japanese artists, and engendered pictorial works that were appreciated for their visual appeal and didactic value. Classical court literature, in particular the Tale of Genji, a court romance that is arguably the earliest novel in the world, has had a profound impact on Japanese visual culture for more than 1000 years. Likewise, poetry is an indispensable inspiration for pictorial art in Japan.

–Xiaojin Wu, Associate Curator for Japanese and Korean Art

Generous support for this exhibition is provided by the Atsuhiko and Ina Goodwin Tateuchi Foundation.

Illustrated Legend of the Hasedera, Muromachi period, 1333–1573, 16th century, Japanese, volume of hand scrolls: ink and color on paper 515 13/16 x 12 1/8in., Seattle Art Museum, Margaret E. Fuller Purchase Fund, 57.15.3, Photo: Susan A Cole