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Thursday, February 15, 2018 to Sunday, June 10, 2018


Smart Museum of Art



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Smart Museum of Art


The appreciation and study of Japanese woodblock prints has focused on ukiyo-e (“floating world”) prints created in Edo, modern-day Tokyo and the capital city of Japan during the Edo period (1610–1868). There was, however, another side of Japanese print production during this remarkable period of artistic creativity: the traditions of Osaka.

Osaka prints have been often overlooked in the past by collectors and less examined in the extensive literature devoted to Japanese print-making during the Edo and Meiji (1868–1912) periods. This exhibition—drawn entirely from lifetime gifts and a 2015 bequest of more than 1,146 woodblock prints forming the Brooks McCormick Jr. Collection of Japanese Prints—examines the flourishing production of richly colored woodblock and deluxe surimono prints that took place in Osaka and nearby Kyoto during the nineteenth century.

Osaka print artists created masterpieces devoted to the Osaka kabuki theatre, local urban and countryside views, and the popular style of Japanese linked verse poetry originating in the sixteenth century, termed haikai. Despite formal and technical connections to the print traditions of Edo, Osaka woodblocks are remarkable statements of local pride and individual creativity.

Chelsea Foxwell, Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, The University of Chicago; and Hans Thomsen, Professor, Institute of Art History, University of Zurich; in consultation with Richard A. Born, Interim Curator for Asian Art, Smart Museum of Art.

Presented in the Richard and Mary L. Gray Gallery

Enjaku, Actor as Architect, c. 1858, Woodblock print. Smart Museum of Art, The Brooks McCormick Jr. Collection of Japanese Prints, 2015.855.