Art Museum Exhibits Japanese Woodblock Prints
June 6, 2002--
"Letters, Poems and All-Purpose Paper in 19th-Century
of Virginia Art Museum
Japanese have been among the most literate of societies for centuries.
Aristocrats and commoners alike have taken pride in calligraphy
and their knowledge of literature, especially poetry. A special
exhibition, "Letters, Poems and All-Purpose Paper in 19th-Century
Japanese Prints," at the University of Virginia Art Museum
this summer, emphasizes the importance the Japanese place on the
art of communicating by means of letters and poems as well as the
ritual use of paper for such purposes.
fiction, on stage, in art and in life," said Stephen Margulies,
curator of works on paper and organizer of the exhibition, "poems
and poetic letters written in a beautiful hand were sent to lovers,
friends and others as a kind of ritualized, dramatized, elusive
yet constant communication, turning art into life and life into
art. Even in the entertainment district of Edo [now Tokyo], high-ranking
courtesans played at being aristocratic poets."
prints in the exhibit portray famous courtesans or scenes from Kabuki
plays. The all-purpose wads or packets of paper held by courtesans
or tucked into the obi of women in these prints are theatrically
ambiguous and suggestive, since they may be communications regarding
either the physical or literary side of love. It is a world of paper
love, or at least paper messages. The one exception is the portrait
of the great aristocratic lover and poet Narihira, who tore off
a piece of his robe so he could write a quick love letter.
these pictures, "pattern overlays pattern, color overlays color,
yet Buddhist emptiness comes through in unlinked passages,"
said Margulies. "Some of the images come close to being first-rate
fashion advertising, like the photographs in Vanity Fair. But here,
art, poetry, writing -- and love -- are one."
in the exhibit are works by major artists such as Shikimaro, Eizan,
Kunisada, Kuniyoshi and Yoshitoshi, who has been described as the
van Gogh of Japan.
University of Virginia Art Museum is open to the public without
charge Tuesday through Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Limited parking is available
for visitors behind the museum.
more information about the exhibition or the University of Virginia
Art Museum, call (434) 924-3592 or visit the museum Web site at
Jane Ford, (434) 924-4298