Media only: James Gordon, 202.633.0520; Rebecca Fahy, 202.633.0521
Public only: 202.633.1000
Exhibition dates: November 19, 2005–May 29, 2006

November 18, 2005
The artists of the vibrant Japanese city of Edo—modern-day Tokyo—come to life in a new exhibition at the Freer Gallery of Art, on view through May 29, 2006. “Artists of Edo: 1800–1850,” brings together more than 30 paintings and prints representing the unique styles of early 19th-century artists active in Edo, a metropolis with an artistic, literary and cultural identity distinct from the courtly traditions of Kyoto. Artists had begun moving to Edo beginning in the 17th century, when members of the elite Kano and Tosa schools, who had painted for the Kyoto imperial court and major Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, established studios in Edo. Some Edo artists created new styles of painting, book illustrations and prints, focusing on the “floating world” culture of the theater and the Yoshiwara pleasure district, and later on landscapes, legends and supernatural subjects.

Though Japan was technically “closed” to the outside world, there was a window for new ideas entering from the port city of Nagasaki. Chinese Ming and Qing styles were brought to Edo when Chinese painters established studios there. In addition, European prints were imported by Dutch traders at Nagasaki, introducing Western ideas to the formerly insular world of Japan. Edo was indeed a confluence of ideas, both traditional and new.

The artists who lived and worked in Edo came from many social classes, a reflection of the artistic interactions possible within the hierarchical class structure. Though a few Edo artists, such as Sakai Hoitsu (1761–1828), were born to aristocratic, samurai families, for whom becoming an artist was a step down the social ladder, others, such as Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849), started out as floating world artists.

Hokusai, the most famous Japanese painter internationally, thrived in the dynamic environment of Edo. His original style in both paintings and prints was emulated by his many talented students, who became well-known artists in their own right.

“Artists of Edo,” the first exhibition to include a substantial selection of work by Hokusai’s followers in the Freer, provides insight into the impact of Hokusai’s stylistic innovations on 19th-century Japanese painting. It will extend and augment the aesthetic and historical themes of the Sackler’s major spring exhibition, “Hokusai” (March 4–May 14, 2006), which will bring together for the first time the Freer Gallery’s unmatched collection of paintings by Hokusai and masterpieces of prints, drawings and paintings from collections throughout the world.

Among the objects in “Artists of Edo” are:
• Works by artists who specialized in pictures of Edo’s “floating world,” such as Utagawa Toyoharu and his pupil, Utagawa Toyohiro, as well as a group of works in contrasting styles and formats by Hishikawa Sori, who studied painting under Hokusai
• Paintings by artists of the Edo Rimpa school whose refined style of painting was based on that of Ogata Korin, a native of Kyoto
• Paintings by such artists as Tani Buncho, who studied a variety of Chinese painting styles and incorporated them into their art
• A hanging scroll and an album by Utagawa Hiroshige, a contemporary and competitor of Hokusai’s and a master in his own right

The Freer Gallery of Art (12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W.) and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (1050 Independence Ave. S.W.) together form the national museum of Asian art for the United States. The Freer also houses a major collection of late 19th- and early 20th-century American art. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day except Dec. 25, and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information, the public may call (202) 633-1000 or TTY (202) 357-1729, or visit the exhibitions section of the galleries’ website.

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