Past Exhibitions
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

  • February 7, 2014–July 6, 2014
    Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.
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 16th century to the present, 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. The exhibition is presented in three successive installations.

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 seventeenth 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 seventeenth to the nineteenth 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, celebrates both the beauty of nature and the festivities of the Japanese people. The commissions for byobu of this group came from high-ranking samurai lords and nouveau riche merchants, from literati intellectuals and communities of shrine and temple supporters. The most recent work on view, a semi-abstract folding screen from 2004, was made for the tea ceremony, as byobu have been for hundreds of years, demonstrating that the traditional art and cultural of Japan have continued unbroken and thrive in new and exciting ways.

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.

Selected Exhibition Objects

Scroll Box with Phoenix and Paulownia Design
Cranes and Birds in Landscape
Scenes from the Tale of Genji
Miniature Chest

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Collection Objects
Photographs, Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, Works on Paper
Collection Objects
Asian Art, Paintings
Collection Objects
Indo-Pacific Art, Jewelry
Artists, New Releases
Collection Objects
Asian Art, Containers, Metal
Collection Objects
Drawings and watercolors, Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, Works on Paper