Category Archive 'Japanese Art'
01 Jan 2008

Choki: Sunrise at New Year

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Eishosai Choki (fl. 1780s-1800s), Sunrise at New Year

A bijin (beautiful woman), presumably a courtesan, has risen early to greet the rising sun of the New Year at the waterfront at Fukagawa in Edo. The woman is adjusting the top of her kimono to protect against the chill of the early morning. In the lower-left is a blossoming fukujuso plant, emblematic of the New Year.

15 Nov 2007

Patterned Feathers, Piercing Eyes

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November 10, 2007–April 13, 2008
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Currently underway at Washington’s Smithsonian-affiliated Sackler Gallery is an exhibition of the Etsuko and Joe Price Collection of Edo Period Japanese Painting. On previous display in Japan at four locations, the Price collection attracted more than 800,000 visitors becoming the most successful museum exhibition in Japanese history.

Paul Richard‘s review, in the Washington Post, makes an interesting comparison:

For the beauty-loving samurai of 18th-century Japan, those competitive aestheticians, true mastery of ink and edge were arts of the same height.

Slicing through a torso with a curving steel blade and putting ink to silk with a liquid-loaded brush, both of these were stroke arts. Both required the same swiftness, the same lack of indecision. For the master of the brush and the master of the blade, who were sometimes the same person, the flawless stroke expressed a Japanese ideal — the beauty-governed union of sure, unhurried speed and centuries-old tradition, utter self-assurance and Zen purity of mind.

Roughly 150 different paintings will be displayed 50 at a time. During the unusual five-month span of the exhibition, several complete rotations are scheduled to accommodate the scale of the collection and to protect the light-sensitive works from excessive continuous exposure.

Smithsonian Press Release

The Shin’enKan Foundation offers a CD of the collection.

01 Jan 2007

Sunrise at New Year


Eishosai Choki (active c. 1786-1808), Sunrise at New Year (ca. 1800)

Perhaps the artist’s best-known design. It shows a woman, presumably a courtesan living near the waterfront at Fukagawa in Edo, who has risen early to greet the rising sun of the New Year. The woman is adjusting the top of her kimono against the chill of the early morning. Behind her is a blossoming fukujuso plant, emblematic of the New Year.

30 Aug 2006

Tsuba on

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There is write-up on a tsuba (Japanese sword guard) for which we are temporary custodian on Rich Turner’s This one has a nautical motif. Tosogu means Japanese furniture in general.

12 Aug 2006

Aotsu Yasutoshi Collection Exhibition

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Aotsu Yasutoshi (1893-1984)

Mr Richard Turner, one of Australia’s leading Nihonto collectors and authorities, has started a blog ( devoted to the discussion of Japanese sword furniture which will undoubtedly prove of great interest to collectors and connoisseurs.

The first posting announces the exhibition at the Sukagawa City Museum in Fukushima of the collection of the tosogu (Japanese sword furniture) of the late Aotsu Yasutoshi, who left an extraordinary collection, assembled over seventy years of collecting, including some 420 tsuba (swordguards) of extremely high quality and aesthetic interest.

The current exhibition is available on-line. There is no translation, but the viewer needs only to click on the left/right arrows to navigate the site.

Ko-Katchushi (Armor-maker made) tsuba, probably mid-Muromachi (c. 1392-1467 AD) – design motif: snowflakes

20 Mar 2006

An Ukiyoe by Koson


Koson - Bird and Begonias
Bird and Begonias, Koson Ohara (1877-1945) c.1910

Subject: A silhouetted bird flying through the driving rain, beneath it sprays of flowering Begonia.

The same essential image was recorded almost 1200 years earlier in Europe.

Venerable Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of England, Book II, Chapter 7:

The present life of man, O king, seems to me, in comparison of that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the room wherein you sit at supper in winter, with your commanders and ministers, and a good fire in the midst, whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door, and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry storm; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, into the dark winter from which he had emerged. So this life of man appears for a short space, but of what went before, or what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant.

04 Jan 2006

B.W. Robinson Dead at 93

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B.W. Robinson
photograph courtesy of Yahya Abdelsamad

The Telegraph yesterday, 1/3, reported the sad news of the death of Basil William Robinson, author and Orientalist, on December 29th at the age of 93.

Born in London June 20, 1912, Robinson was educated at Winchester, and at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. While at Oxford, he prepared a a B.Litt. thesis on the collection of Persian miniatures in the Bodleian Library, which many years later was to form the basis of a comprehensive catalogue.

Upon completing his degree at Oxford, he accepted the post of headmaster of a school at Bognor Regis. He had been an enthusiast and collector of Japanese art, arms, and armor, since boyhood, and in the capacity of a collector became acquainted with A.J. Koop, Assistant Keeper of the Metalwork Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum. An inquiry resulted in a friendship, and with Koop’s encouragement, he sought a post at the Museum. He was runner-up for an Assistant Keeper’s position, but the favorite soon resigned; and, in 1939, Robinson succeeded to the appointment.

He joined the Royal Sussex Regiment in 1942, enlisting in the ranks, but was sent to officer training school, and then commissioned (on the basis of his knowledge of Urdu) in the 2nd Punjab Regiment. He subsequently served as an Intelligence Officer in the Headquarters of 14 Army, which defeated the Japanese in the course of the campaign in Burma whose major actions were the battles of Imphal and Kohima.

After the end of the war, Robinson was sent to Singapore to be employed, on the basis of his knowledge of Japanese swords, in evaluating large quantities of swords surrendered by the defeated enemy. He was able to obtain the services of Colonel Yamada Sakae, of the 3rd Air Force, who had been a member of the sword evaluating committee of the Japanese War Office, to assist in his task.

He returned to the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1946. In the years following the war, Robinson proved a prolific author, publishing monographs on Persian miniatures and paintings, on Japanese swords and armor, and on the woodblock prints of Hiroshige and Kuniyoshi. His The Arts of the Japanese Sword (1961) was one of a small number of post-WWII publications in European languages which played a crucial role in opening up the study of Nihonto to Western students and collectors.

He became Deputy Keeper of Metal work in 1954, and succeeded the illustrious Charles Oman as Keeper in 1966. In 1967, Robinson was elected honorary president of the To-ken Society of Great Britain. He was president of the Royal Asiatic Society from 1970 to 1973. He was Keeper Emeritus at the Victoria and Albert from 1972 until his retirement in 1976. He is remembered with gratitude for his many contributions to the advancement of learning, and with affection by many friends, students, and long-time correspondents.


Yahya Abdelsamad, Basil William Robinson, Japanese Sword Society of the United States Newsletter, 37:1, February, 2005.

27 Nov 2005

Contemporary Origami by Hojyo Takahashi

Hojyo Takahashi 2004

(click on picture for more images)

Simply astonishing.

Other works

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