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The Gallery’s collection of Asian art comprises approximately 6,700 works from East Asia, continental Southeast Asia, South Asia, Iran, and the Near East and spans the Neolithic period to the 21st century. Highlights of the collection include Chinese ceramics and paintings, Japanese paintings and prints, and Indian and Persian textiles and miniature paintings.
About Asian Art
The Department of Asian Art’s Chinese and Japanese collections were built initially through the gifts and bequest of Mrs. William H. Moore between 1937 and 1960. The greatest strengths of the Chinese holdings are ceramics and paintings, including a group of vessels from the Changsha region of Hunan Province, from around 500 B.C.E. to 1000 C.E., assembled for the most part by John Hadley Cox, B.A. 1935. Chinese paintings range from the Tang dynasty (618–907 C.E.) through the 20th century, with particular strengths in the 17th century and in the modern and contemporary period.
The Japanese collection has important concentrations in the arts of the Edo period (1615–1868). Approximately 1,200 prints, the majority of which are ukiyo-e prints of the 18th and 19th centuries, demonstrate the breadth of this medium, and recent additions have included a group of 20th-century prints. Several important screens and hanging scrolls of the 14th through 18th century highlight the department’s holdings of Japanese painting and calligraphy, while Japanese textiles are represented by fragments from the Shōsōin repository in Nara, Noh robes, kimonos, and a collection of Buddhist priests’ robes. Japanese ceramics, a growing area of the collection, span from the Neolithic period to the presend day, with important recent additions of contemporary ceramic sculpture.
The South Asian and Islamic collections, again founded by the gifts of Mrs. Moore, are represented by an excellent group of textiles, ceramics, miniature paintings, and manuscript pages. Gifts of over 80 Persian and Indian miniature paintings, and others of Indian sculpture, have greatly augmented the holdings of Iranian and Indian art.
The permanent-collection galleries include an installation of Japanese textiles, as well as a tokonoma-like space, meant to evoke an alcove that is used to display art and decorative objects in a Japanese interior. In addition, the design enables Japanese screens to be displayed side-by-side for the first time at the Gallery. Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Thai ceramics, as well as Chinese and Indian sculpture, have also been reinstalled. Highlights of the arts of Islam are displayed in a teaching gallery devoted to Islamic art.
Please note: The Department of Asian Art at the Yale University Art Gallery uses the era designations C.E. (“of the common era”) and B.C.E. (“before the common era”) corresponding to A.D. (anno Domini, “in the year of the Lord”) and B.C. (“before Christ”).
Note from the Curator
Now on display in the Ruth and Bruce Dayton Gallery are a pair of screens by the Japanese artist Kaihō Yūsetsu (1598–1677). On the left screen, a dragon emerges from a vortex of clouds; on the right screen, a tiger and a leopard appear in a grove of bamboo lashed by wind. The dragon, exhaling, was thought to raise clouds; the tiger, inhaling, was thought to bring about wind. Together, these creatures represent the dynamic changes in nature, the alternation of yin and yang. The presence of a leopard alongside a tiger is unusual; the artist may have thought of the leopard, an animal unknown in Japan, as another tiger.
In the Indian paintings section of the gallery, the life of Mahavira—who was, according to Jain tradition, the last of twenty-four saints called tirthankaras, “the ones who lead to the other side”—is depicted in a large painting dating from the late 15th or early 16th century. The lustration of the child Mahavira appears in the center, surrounded by episodes from his life. Scenes from Mahavira’s life are also found in illustrated manuscript folios on view. The long horizontal shape of the folios derives from the early use of palm leaves for copying texts. Meanwhile, the Chinese paintings currently on display reveal the many directions taken by the country’s artists during the course of the 20th century. Some, like Li Kuchan, took inspiration from 17th-century masters, while others, like Wu Guanzhong, incorporated elements of Western abstraction into their works.
David Ake Sensabaugh
The Ruth and Bruce Dayton Curator of Asian Art
Meet the Curators
David Ake Sensabaugh
David Ake Sensabaugh, the Ruth and Bruce Dayton Curator of Asian Art and head of the Department of Asian Art, received his master’s and doctoral degrees in Chinese and Japanese art and archaeology from Princeton University and his bachelor’s degree in history from Stanford University. His research interests are in Chinese painting of the 14th and 15th centuries, Chinese pictorial art of the Han and Southern and Northern dynasties, and Chinese gardens. His most recent essays include “Fashioning Identities in Yuan-Dynasty Painting: Images of the Men of Culture” (2009), in Ars Orientalis, and “The Lion Grove in Space and Time,” published in Bridges to Heaven: Essays on East Asian Art in Honor of Professor Wen C. Fong (2011).Download CV
Sadako Ohki, the Japan Foundation Associate Curator of Japanese Art, received her master’s and doctoral degrees in History of Art from the University of Michigan. Ohki wrote her doctoral thesis on Ike Taiga’s calligraphy, reflecting a lifelong interest in calligraphy and ink art. She contributed an essay on Taiga to Ike Taiga and Tokuyama Gyokuran: Japanese Masters of the Brush (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2007); on British abstract artist Rebecca Salter and her interest in Japan to Rebecca Salter: Into the Light of Things (Yale Center for British Art, 2011); and on Konoe Nobutada to the magazine Orientations (2012). Her exhibitions at the Gallery include Tea Culture of Japan: “Chanoyu” Past and Present (2009), which was accompanied by an exhibition catalogue, and, most recently, the three-part exhibition Byobu: The Grandeur of Japanese Screens (2014).Download CV
The Edo Culture in Japanese Prints. With an introduction by George J. Lee. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972.
Lee, George J. Selected Far Eastern Art in the Yale University Art Gallery. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1970.
Neill, Mary Gardner. The Communion of Scholars: Chinese Art at Yale. New York: China Institute in America, 1982.
Ohki, Sadako. Tea Culture of Japan, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2009.
Ohki, Sadako. Twentieth-Century Japanese Ceramics at the Yale University Art Gallery: The Collections of Molly and Walter Bareiss. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2001.
Ohki, Sadako, ed. Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin: Japanese Art at Yale (2007).
Sensabaugh, David Ake. The Scholar as Collector: Chinese Art at Yale. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 2004.
Staples, Loretta N. A Sense of Pattern: Textile Masterworks from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1981.