Zen, Tea, and Chinese Art in Medieval Japan
Zen Buddhism, tea, and ink painting—well-known expressions of Japanese culture—have their roots in Chinese arts and ideas brought to medieval Japan from the late twelfth to the sixteenth century. Devout Japanese and Chinese Buddhist monks brought the teachings of Chan Buddhism to Japan, where it was known as Zen Buddhism, and attracted the patronage of powerful warriors who ruled Japan as shoguns from 1192 to 1867. Prestigious Chinese art collected by Zen monasteries and their ruling-class patrons introduced new techniques, styles, and aesthetic ideas, transforming Japanese artistic expression. By the sixteenth century, arts and customs from Song, Yuan, and Ming dynasty China had been assimilated into Japanese culture, emerging as Japanese practices such as chanoyu, the art of tea. In this exhibition, Chinese and Japanese paintings, lacquer ware, and ceramics illuminate this remarkable period of cultural contact and synthesis.
Oribe Ware: Color and Pattern Come to Japanese Ceramics
Invented in Japan in 1605, Oribe ware introduced vivid pattern and color to a ceramics tradition that had previously favored somber, monochrome designs. Oribe ware vessels were used primarily for serving food and drinking tea, and their sprightly patterns with glossy black or brilliant green glazes made them a shimmering addition to 17th-century dining trays and tearooms. A major technological advance in ceramics—the Motoyashiki multi-chamber climbing kiln, which allowed potters to melt glazes to dazzling translucency—made this radically new appearance possible. This exhibition highlights the best selections of Oribe ware in the Freer’s collection, including two new acquisitions on view for the first time.
Chinese Ceramics: 13th–14th Century
Ceramic production during the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368) reflects the strength of the international market demand for Chinese wares. Notably, celadon-glazed vessels from Longquan competed with porcelain objects from Jingdezhen, painted with innovative decoration in cobalt pigment. A dozen Chinese ceramics from the Freer collection show highlights of Yuan ceramic styles and complement the exhibition Style in Chinese Landscape Painting: The Yuan Legacy.
Peacock Room REMIX: Darren Waterston’s Filthy Lucre
Peacock Room REMIX centers on Filthy Lucre, an immersive interior by painter Darren Waterston. He reinterprets James McNeill Whistler’s famed Peacock Room as a resplendent ruin, an aesthetic space that is literally overburdened by its own excesses—of materials, history, and creativity. Like Filthy Lucre and the original Peacock Room, this exhibition invites viewers to consider the complex relationships among art, money, and the passage of time.
Lineage of Elegance: Tawaraya Sōtatsu
Tawaraya Sōtatsu (ca. 1570‒ca. 1640), a fountainhead of Japanese painting and design, is one of the most influential yet elusive figures in Japanese culture. Sōtatsu’s work is instantly recognized by its bold, abstracted style, lavish swaths of gold and silver, and rich jewel tones. Much of the artist’s life, however, remains a mystery. How a working-class owner of a Kyoto fan shop transformed into a sophisticated designer with a network of aristocratic collaborators is still an enigma.
Lineage of Elegance is the first in-depth examination of this major Japanese artist. The exhibition convenes for the first time more than seventy of Sōtatsu’s masterpieces from collections in Japan, Europe, and the United States, along with homage pieces by later artists that demonstrate his long-ranging influence. Highlights include Waves at Matsushima and Dragons and Clouds, along with fans, albums, hanging scrolls, and paintings. The Freer|Sackler is the only venue for this first major Sōtatsu retrospective in the Western Hemisphere.
Current ExhibitionsThe Traveler's Eye: Scenes of Asia
Through May 31, 2015
All current exhibitions »
Past exhibitionsLearn about past exhibitions from 2002 to the present.
Past exhibitions »