Asian Art

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.
Moonlight Bamboo
Five Tang Poems
Arch (Parikara)
Foliate Vase
The Death of the Buddha Sakyamuni (Nehan-zu)
Owl-Shaped Wine Vessel (Zun)

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 selection of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Chinese paintings of the Ming dynasty. A large hanging scroll depicting an eagle and a bear in a landscape setting by an unidentified court painter conveys a surprising message. The characters for “eagle” and “bear,” when read together, sound like the characters for “hero,” while their attentive postures suggest the act of listening. What they hear is a cascade of water in the background; the character for “cascade” has the same sound as the character for “admonition.” Thus the meaning can be understood as “the hero (or ruler) listens to admonitions”—a message to the emperor that he needs to heed the advice given by his advisors. This and other court and professional paintings are contrasted with landscapes by the scholar amateur painters Wen Zhengming and his student Ju Jie. Their paintings suggest a very different world of retreat from the politics of the court.

In the section of the gallery devoted to the arts of Japan are several works related to Zen Buddhism. A simple circle painted by the mid-twentieth-century painter Yoshihara Jirō alludes to the principle of detachment—the necessity of giving up all desires in order to become disengaged from this world and attain enlightenment. Yoshihara’s repeated attempts at painting the circle can be interpreted as his own pursuit of enlightenment in the tradition of Zen masters, many of whom were said to find awakening while engaged in such menial and repetitive tasks.

David Ake Sensabaugh

The Ruth and Bruce Dayton Curator of Asian Art

Eagle and Bear in a Landscape Setting, Chinese, Ming dynasty, late 15th–early 16th century. Hanging scroll: ink and color on silk. Yale University Art Gallery, Purchased with gifts from Ruth and Bruce B. Dayton, B.A. 1940; The Henry Luce Foundation at the request of H. Christopher Luce, B.A. 1972; and the Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., Class of 1913, Fund, in honor of Professor Richard M. Barnhart

Meet the Curators

Denise Patry Leidy

Denise Patry Leidy, the Ruth and Bruce Dayton Curator of Asian Art and head of the Department of Asian Art, received her master’s and doctoral degrees from Columbia University. Prior to joining the Gallery, she served as the Brooke Russell Astor Curator of Chinese Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and as curator at the Asia Society and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Denise has curated exhibitions such as Global by Design: Chinese Ceramics from the R. Albuquerque Collection (2016), Silla: Korea’s Golden Kingdom (2013), Red and Black: Chinese Lacquer from the 13th to the 16th Century (2012), and Hidden Treasure of Afghanistan (2009). Her publications include How to Read Chinese Ceramics (2015), Wisdom Embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (2010), The Art of Buddhism: An Introduction to Its History and Meaning (2009), Mother-of-Pearl: A Tradition in Asian Lacquer (2006), and Treasures of Asian Art: The Asia Society’s Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller Collection (1994).

denise.leidy@yale.edu

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David Ake Sensabaugh

David Ake Sensabaugh, the Ruth and Bruce Dayton Curator 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).

david.sensabaugh@yale.edu

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Sadako Ohki

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).

sadako.ohki@yale.edu

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Further Reading

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.
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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).
Learn More

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.

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