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Past Event

Saturday University: Woodwork and the Arts of Japan

Feb 8 2020

Seattle Art Museum

Plestcheeff Auditorium

10 AM – 11:30 AM

Woodwork and the Arts of Japan

Yukio Lippit / Harvard University

Although Japanese artistic traditions are often associated with rare and precious materials, including gold, silver, brocade silk, lacquer, and other materials, this lecture proposes that nothing is more valuable to these traditions than wood. Despite its humble and ubiquitous nature, wood in the Japanese islands was invested with many different kinds of value, and its qualities were showcased in richly varied forms of cultural production. Indeed, a focus on the way Japanese art and architecture relates to wood can lead to unexpected new perspectives on the cultural traditions of the archipelago.

New perspectives arise by considering the cases of the Ise Shrines, early sculpture, and the Katsura Villa, thereby reframing the role of Japan’s biomass heritage in the practices of Shinto, Buddhism, and sukiya architecture. (Sukiya describes a refined architectural style originally used for teahouses and later for some residences.)

About the Presenter

Yukio Lippit is Professor of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University and Faculty Director of the Arts at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. He specializes in Japanese painting, and is author of Painting of the Realm: The Kano House of Painters in Seventeenth-Century Japan (2012). His recent publications include Japanese Zen Buddhism and the Impossible Painting (Getty, 2017) and The Artist in Edo (National Gallery of Art, 2018).

Please note: This event takes place at the Seattle Art Museum. South Hall doors open at 9:30 am.


Sat Feb 1

Rarities Fit for Kings: Ephemeral and Tangible Precious Goods in Sultanate India

Sat Feb 8

Woodwork and the Arts of Japan

Sat Feb 15

The Dragon and the Pearl: Explorations of a Eurasian Motif

Sat Feb 22

The Strange Case of the Castaway Princess and Other Stories of Japan in the Pacific

Sat Feb 29

Out of the Dark: Banned Books in China

Sat Mar 7

Marvelous Journey of Precious Objects: Chaekgeori, Korean Still-Life Painting


Full series tickets: $62; SAM members $42
Individual lecture tickets available at the door: $11, SAM members $7; free at the door for students with ID
Please arrive to your seat 10 minutes before the program starts, or your seat may be released.

Image: Tobatsu Bishamonten (Vaisravana), late 10th century, Japanese, Wood, gesso, and polychrome, 48 1/2 x 21 x 14 in. (123.2 x 53.3 x 35.6 cm), Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 48.179.

The Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are located on the ancestral land of the Coast Salish people.