Japanese Masterpieces from the Price Collection @ Bowers Museum

During the Edo Period (18th century) the great Japanese urban centers of Tokyo and Kyoto experienced a cultural efflorescence that lead to significant developments in art and aesthetics. The Etsuko and Joe Price Collection in one of the finest of Japanese art of the period and is now showing at the Bowers Museum in California.

The exhibition provides a unique opportunity to survey the paintings of the top artists of Japan’s Edo period (1603-1868) - painters who were considered unconventional and eccentric in their approach to painting during their lifetimes. Now celebrated for their exuberant luxuries and their individualistic expressions of the natural world, these artists of Edo period Japan have been credited as the inspiration for the contemporary painting movement known as Superflat and the Japanese sensation of Anime.

The paintings of Nagasawa Rosetsu, Maruyama Okyo, Mori Sosen, Suzuki Kiitsu and others included in this exhibition exemplify the exuberance and expression of Edo Period art. Their captivating imagery includes lovely courtesans in flowing fabrics, ferocious tigers, and serene images of nature among other subjects.

The Edo period saw the rise of a great warrior class called samurai, who built their capital and named it Edo - modern day Tokyo. They greatly influenced the arts, preferring paintings that glittered with gold and presented subject matter that embraced the Japanese heritage of the past and rejected the Chinese influences that had dominated art making, in particular the iconographic art of ancient Buddhism and the severe canons of Zen aesthetics.

The order to close their sea ports severed relations with the outside world and created a state of isolation and seclusion for the Japanese people. In this atmosphere, artists freely explored and experimented with the arts of the past, art unique to their own heritage and free from the foreign principles once so stringently adhered to. In content and style, the art of the Edo is purely Japanese.