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Hirayama Ikuo, former president of the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music (left), and Julian Raby, director of the Freer and Sackler Galleries, sign an Agreement of International Cooperation between both institutions in July 2002.

Hirayama Program for Japanese Painting Conservation


Introduction

Hirayama Ikuo

A survivor of the bombing at Hiroshima, Hirayama Ikuo (1930–2009) achieved renown as one of Japan's most important artists of the twentieth century. Deeply aware of the importance of world culture and history, he was a philanthropist committed to the preservation of world heritage and, in particular, to Buddhist culture and historic monuments that were also the focus of his art. In 1988, he established the World Cultural Heritage Foundation. Hirayama served as the head of the Tokyo National University of Art and Music from 1989–95 and 2001–2005. His many honors and awards included the Legion d'honneur, the James Smithson award, and induction into the Order of Cultural Merit, Japan's highest honor for achievement in the arts and sciences.

History of the Program

Hirayama proposed that the Japanese government and private organizations should undertake a project to assist in the care and preservation of Japanese art in Western collections. This led to the establishment of the Joint Council for the Conservation and Restoration of Ancient Japanese Art Works in Foreign Collections in 1991.That same year, the council signed an agreement with the Freer and Sackler Galleries to provide aid for the conservation of Japanese paintings in the Galleries' collections. Over the following six years, approximately forty paintings from the Freer Gallery were conserved in Japan thanks to this support.

Following the success of this collaboration, Hirayama and the Freer and Sackler Galleries reached an agreement that created the Hirayama Program for Japanese Painting Conservation in 1999. It also endowed the program with a gift from the Foundation for Cultural Heritage and Art Research, over which Hirayama presided.

Goals of the Program

The Hirayama Program is dedicated to advancing the state of conservation of Japanese paintings in the United States. The program has four main areas of activity:

  • training Western candidates in the methods and principles of Japanese painting conservation
  • supporting ongoing professional exchanges between the Freer and Sackler Galleries and conservation and research organizations in Japan
  • conducting lectures and workshops on the care of Japanese paintings for staff of American museums that have East Asian painting collections but no specialists in this field
  • conducting lectures and workshops on the physical nature and preservation of Japanese paintings to augment university courses and educational programs in East Asian art history.

Program Activities

Conservation Training: Hirayama Fellowship in Japanese Painting Conservation

Courtney Shimoda, Hirayama Fellow
Courtney Shimoda, Hirayama Fellow since 2009, is now training at the Conservation Center for Cultural Properties in Kyoto, Japan.
One of the Hirayama Program's main activities is training Western candidates in the established methods and principles of Japanese painting conservation. To this end, the Hirayama Fellowship in Japanese Painting Conservation was initiated in 2000. The fellowship begins with a two-to-three-year period of hands-on study at the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Daily training entails working in the East Asian Painting Conservation Studio under the guidance of traditionally trained Japanese painting conservators to acquire basic skills and familiarity with the materials, techniques, and philosophy of Japanese scroll mounting and conservation. Other duties include assisting with administration and maintenance of the studio, collections care, and exhibitions. This introduction prepares fellows for several more years of in-depth conservation and training in a studio in Japan.

The program provides financial support for the long-term commitment required of a fellow to undergo this training. The fellowship is a one-year renewable contract. Viable candidates are typically post-graduates with experience in conservation and/or studio art; a demonstrated interest in Japanese art, history, and culture; and a deep commitment to pursuing a career in Japanese painting conservation. Japanese language ability, though not required, is essential to developing a career in this field. Language training is provided and advancement in proficiency is expected.

Lectures, Workshops and Professional Exchanges

Mr. Miyata Takao learning conservation techniques
Miyata Takao learned to use alkaline hydrogen peroxide to reduce foxing in a Japanese painting on paper during his visit in 2006.
Exchanges of professional personnel between the Freer and Sackler Galleries and Japanese painting conservation studios, research centers, and university programs are undertaken to share expertise and broaden experience. Japanese conservation professionals stay in residence at the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research to work with staff conservators on various projects. East Asian Paintings Conservation Studio (EAPCS) conservators also have occasion to continue training in Japan. Experts also make shorter visits for research, lectures, or meetings.

Visiting Professionals from Japan

Japanese painting conservators are invited for short-term study visits in the EAPCS, typically during the summer, for periods of several weeks to three months. Participants are encouraged to interact with members of the Freer and Sackler Galleries, various Western conservation centers, and other East Asian painting conservation studios in the United States.

Since 2004, five Japanese painting conservators have been chosen for their potential to benefit from exposure to Western conservation techniques and for their abilities to exchange ideas, build relationships, and share their experiences with other Japanese colleagues.

Workshops and Lectures on the Materials and Methods of Japanese Painting and Conservation

Mr. Atsushi Okawa leading a workshop
Okawa Atsushi, former researcher for the Kochi Prefectural Paper Industry and Technology Center, leads the "East Asian Paper Fiber Identification" workshop in 2005.
As part of the ongoing exchange of experts, Japanese conservators, scientists, and scholars are invited to the Freer and Sackler to present workshops and lectures related to Japanese painting conservation. These programs are intended for Western conservators and researchers who may work with East Asian collections, as well as for Japanese art historians and other specialists. These practical workshops create a forum for investigating traditional methods and materials, exchanging specialized knowledge, and advancing technical research about East Asian painting conservation while spreading this information to a broader audience.

The EAPCS staff facilitated the first technical workshop, "East Asian Paper Fiber Identification," in 2005 and another four-day workshop, "Traditional Japanese Gold Decorating Techniques Used in Japanese Screen and Scroll Mounting," in 2007. More recent lectures have covered topics including fiber analysis of traditional Japanese papers, historic Silk and Traditional Weaving Methods for Reproducing Brocade fabrics and alternative materials, and types of roller clamps for storing rolled formats. Information and photos from these proceedings are available here.

Please see our calendar of future events.

Visiting conservators and art historians examine paintings

Visiting conservators and art historians examine paintings from the Freer collection as they exchange insights into the traditional techniques and art-historical implications of the use of gold in Japanese painting.

Workshops and Lectures on the Care and Handling of East Asian Scrolls and Screens

Mr. Wakiya Sukesaku demonstrates a gold leaf application technique
Wakiya Sukesaku demonstrates a gold leaf application technique over a ground of gofun during the "Traditional Japanese Gold Decorating Techniques" workshop in 2007.
Another important objective of the Hirayama Program is to provide information and training to help increase awareness and enhance the care of East Asian paintings in American collections. To encourage an active dialogue in the museum and scholarly communities about these concerns and help define practical solutions, members of the East Asian Painting Conservation Studio offer free lectures and workshops for the staff of American museums with holdings of East Asian paintings but no specialists in that area.

These educational sessions generally consist of a half-day to two-day program that provides hands-on practice of safe handling procedures for scrolls and screens, guidelines for safe storage and display of collections, or basic conservation and maintenance issues. Presentations about the physical nature of East Asian paintings, mounting formats, and their methods and materials are also offered. These lectures and workshops can be conducted at the Freer Gallery or in other museums with Asian collections, as well as in educational institutions with programs in Asian art history. Versions of these workshops are also given at the Freer and Sackler Galleries for staff, fellows, and interns each year.

For educational materials related to the care of East Asian painting collections, please see our archive.

Andrew Hare leads a gallery talk.

Andrew Hare leads a gallery talk for visiting art historians and students about the materials, methods, and aesthetics of Japanese painting and mounting.

Lectures and workshops on the physical nature and preservation of Japanese paintings to augment university courses and educational programs in East Asian art history

In cooperation with Asian art history faculty at U.S. colleges and universities, "Care and Handling" workshops have been developed to acquaint art history students with the practical concerns of handling, storage, and display of East Asian paintings. These workshops are offered onsite as part of the art history coursework or can be coordinated with study visits to the Freer and Sackler Galleries.

Presentations about the physical nature of East Asian paintings, mounting formats, and their methods and materials are also offered. These lectures focus on specific aspects of Japanese paintings, such as characteristics of traditional pigments and painting supports, aesthetics and function of mounting formats, and the effects of conservation on the appearance of the image.

For information about the Hirayama Program, please e-mail dcsr@si.edu or call +1 (202) 633-0385

For educational materials related to the materials, methods, and care of East Asian painting collections, please see our online resources.

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Scientific research at the Freer and Sackler Galleries is primarily focused on the physical nature of artworks from Asian cultures. More info »


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Online Resources

Making a Japanese Karibari Drying Board
Making East Asian Scroll Storage Boxes (PDF)
Safe Handling Practice for Chinese and Japanese Scrolls and Screens
Asian Art Connections (PDF)
Conservation of a Nara-period handscroll


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