Past Exhibition
School of Geiai, Cranes and Birds in a Landscape, Momoyama period, 17th century. Six-panel folding screen: ink and color on paper. Yale University Art Gallery, Katharine Ordway Collection
Installation view of Tales and Poems in Byobu: The Grandeur of Japanese Screens
Installation view of Tales and Poems in Byobu: The Grandeur of Japanese Screens
Installation view of Brush and Ink in Byobu: The Grandeur of Japanese Screens
Installation view of Brush and Ink in Byobu: The Grandeur of Japanese Screens

Byobu: The Grandeur of Japanese Screens

Friday, February 7, 2014Sunday, July 6, 2014
Tales and Poems in Byobu

February 7–March 23, 2014
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Brush and Ink in Byobu

March 25–May 11, 2014
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Nature and Celebration in Byobu

May 13–July 6, 2014
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Japanese folding screens, or byobu, were originally constructed to mark spatial divisions within a room. Often monumental in scale and sumptuously decorated, byobu have been created by some of Japan’s greatest artists. This exhibition features screens from the mid-16th to the early 21st century, representing diverse themes painted by most of the dominant schools of the period, particularly from the 17th and 18th centuries. Byobu: The Grandeur of Japanese Screens includes the Gallery’s finest screens as well as works on loan from private collections, offering a truly comprehensive display of this opulent Japanese aesthetic. This exhibition is presented in three successive installations, each focusing on a different aspect of the Japanese screen tradition.

With opulent colors and glittering gold, the first installation, Tales and Poems in Byobu, presents the subjects of indigenous Japanese waka poems and of fictional and historical tales. Nearly all made during the 17th century, at the height of byobu production, the byobu on display embody the two central tenets of Japanese aesthetics, visually contrasting the sumptuous with the subdued.

The second installation, Brush and Ink in Byobu, features the dynamic power of ink when applied by the skilled brush of artists trained in calligraphy. From the early 17th to the 19th century, artists demonstrated their inexhaustible skills and virtuosity. Subject matter varies widely—from preening chickens and frolicking horses to mythical dragons to contemplative bamboo groves bathed in moonlight.

The third and final installation, Nature and Celebration in Byobu, explores both the beauty of nature and the festivities of the Japanese people. The commissions for the byobu in this group came from a wide range of social groups—from high-ranking samurai lords to nouveau-riche merchants, and from literati intellectuals to communities of shrine and temple supporters.

Exhibition organized by Sadako Ohki, the Japan Foundation Associate Curator of Japanese Art. Made possible by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation, the Council on East Asian Studies, and an endowment created with a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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