Japanese History And Culture On Display At Cincinnati Art Museum

Feb 10, 2017

The Cincinnati Art Museum has two Japanese displays opening this weekend. Dressed to Kill features samurai armor and weaponry from the 16th to 19th centuries.  The other exhibit is a collection of woodcut prints by 20th century artist Kosaka Gajin.

Transcending Reality

Curator of Prints Kristin Spangenberg says to produce the prints on display, Gajin had to improvise.

"These are all prints that were executed between 1947 and 1953, when he died," Spangenberg says. "Of course, they had to rebuild Tokyo and other cities, so materials, I think, were very dear."

Spangenberg says Gajin learned his craft during a time when Japan was not isolated.

"Kosaka Gajin studied both Japanese style painting and Western style painting," she says. 

Spangenberg says there was another movement at the time, which was a revival of traditional methods. She says Gajin was influenced by Western ideas, but used traditional subjects, like landscapes, temples and the natural world.

"He's looking at not influencing his viewers," Spangenberg says. "In other words, if he were to be inspired by Mt. Fuji he would not do a very realistic rendering of Mt. Fuji. He would try and capture the essence of the mountain."

The prints come from the museum's Howard and Caroline Porter Collection. Spangenberg says it's the first time Gajin's work has been featuring in a one-man show in the United States.

Dressed to Kill

The other new exhibit includes 130 warrior-related objects from the collections of the Cincinnati Art Museum and Gary Grose, a local collector. This exhibition showcases Japanese Samurai culture and arts from the 16th to 19th centuries.

There are eleven full suits of armor and a wide variety of swords, knives, bows and arrows, firearms and other weapons. The display also features the museum’s related Japanese artworks, including battle prints, paintings, metal crafts, banners and costumes.

The two exhibits run through May 7.