In 2014, the Okada Museum of Art in Hakone, Japan, made an announcement that startled the art world. The new arts center revealed it had discovered a long-lost painting by Kitagawa Utamaro (1753–1806), a legendary but mysterious Japanese artist.
Titled Snow at Fukagawa, the immense work is one of three paintings by Utamaro that idealize famous pleasure districts in Edo (now Tokyo). This trio reached the Paris art market in the late 1880s and was quickly dispersed. Museum founder Charles Lang Freer acquired Moon at Shinagawa in 1903. Cherry Blossoms at Yoshiwara passed through several hands in France until the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, purchased it in the late 1950s. And Snow at Fukagawa had been missing for nearly seventy years before it resurfaced in Hakone.
For the first time in nearly 140 years, these paintings reunite in Inventing Utamaro at the Freer|Sackler, the only location to show all three original pieces. Contextualizing them within collecting and connoisseurship at the turn of the twentieth century, the exhibition explores the many questions surrounding the paintings and Utamaro himself.