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Title

: Recent Accessions of Japanese and Chinese Art

Author

Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Date

1964

Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The Institute's collections of Oriental art are notable. The Alfred F. Pillsbury collection of archaic Chinese bronzes1 and the collection of Chinese textiles including a considerable group of imperial robes2 are well-published and famous.The visitor to the Institute can find, since last spring, the Oriental collections handsomely reinstalled and he can rediscover many treasures less-known but not less important than the great bronzes and robes. In a room devoted to Chinese jewelry is the Charles S. Pillsbury collection formed by the late C. T. Loo. In a room devoted to Chinese jades are selections from the Alfred F. Pillsbury collection of archaic jades and the Searle collection of the jades of later times. A large gallery is devoted to more monumental Chinese art: the sarcophagus and memorial tablets (524 A.D.) of the Prince Cheng Ching of the Northern Wei Dynasty, the life-size Six Dynasties stone Kuan-Yin (571 A.D.), three Northern Sung frescoes, and so forth. Another large gallery displays our superb Chinese ceramic holdings, from pre-history through the great dynasties. There is a gallery of the sculpture of South-East Asia, an annex of Indian sculpture, the two large matching galleries of the Pillsbury bronzes and, for the first time, a large Japanese gallery (inaugurated in April by H. E. Ryuji Takeuchi, the Japanese Ambassador). In the storage are reserves of all of these collections, and the Institute has not yet found space for the proper presentation of its Chinese textiles, nor for several valuable and extensive collections of minor, but not less fine or useful, material.Within the reinstalled galleries are a number of acquisitions of the last two years, a few of which have been brought to the attention of the Institute's visitors through the monthly changes of the Recent Accessions Panel. It seems appropriate in this Bulletin, and in connection with the reinstallation of the galleries, to record briefly and to illustrate the most prominent and delightful of these acquisitions. All of the pieces are Chinese or Japanese; the Chinese increasing our wealthy holdings, the Japanese establishing a wealth which Mr. and Mrs. Richard Pillsbury Gale so strongly began in 1956 with the gift of the magnificent 17th-century gilt-bronze Kwannon Bosatsu.By gift in August, 1962, and by bequest at her untimely death in the same year, Miss Alice O'Brien became on of the greatest patrons of the Institute. Her collection was not large: eleven Chinese scroll-paintings, three Chinese bronzes, and a small T'ang marble head. The importance of her patronage can be understood through knowledge of the following three supreme objects.The bronze wine vessel (Tsun) in the shape of a goose (fig. 1) has been known since the great Burlington House exhibition of Chinese art held in 1936.3 This is a spectacular object of the late Chou dynasty (ca. 300 B.C.) and is a splendid companion to the celebrated Pillsbury Owl. Vigorous and bold in form and of handsome patina, the O'Brien Goose is inlaid with small bits of turquoise in various parts of its most sophisticated and ornamental surface.Not less handsome nor less important is the superb pair of scroll-paintings by the 12th-century Sung master Wü Yüan-yü, the one showing a gander (fig. 2), the other its goose and goslings (fig. 3).4 These are monuments of the classic period of Chinese painting.A scroll attributed to Jan Ping-shan of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), A Poet Looking at a Waterfall (fig. 4),5 belongs to less heroic days of the Chinese civilization and is obviously not a painting of such capital importance. Nevertheless, its less noble beauties are real enough: its precision, power, and freedom are appropriate to modern taste; its quality is a tribute to its late owner.A smaller painting attributed to the Ming Dynasty (fig. 5)6 comes to the Institute by the bequest of Mrs. Harriet Clark Hanley, whose memory is dear to every Minnesota artist. An informal portrait of a lady, this is a delightful work, intimate, minor but hardly trivial, and not really more exotic to the modern eye than a similar scene by Boucher.Fig. 6 shows a Japanese wooden statue only fourteen and a half inches tall, with glass eyes, and blackened by incense.7 The gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gale, this gentle, delicate, and fascinating figure was carved about the year 1200 A.D. It is the portrait of an unknown young Tendai priest, a member of an esoteric cult of the Tathagatu Buddha (He-who-comes-as-he-is) which attempted to synthesize the teachings of the mystic schools of Buddhism within a doctrinal framework of the Lotus Sutra.Opposite in temperament is a statuette of one of the Twelve Generals of the Yakushi Buddha, signed by the Japanese sculptor Joga, who flourished in the decade before and the decade after the year 1200 (fig. 7).8 The General is one of the Buddha's “spiritual protectors,” and his threatening aspect must be taken as a real and universal manifestation of human nature because it is so easily adopted by any untutored child on the same iconographical terms Joga used. The soft wood, once painted and gilded, is now largely bare and one may intimately observe the brilliance of carving and the ability to show what is soft and hard, essential and inessential, forceful and quiet, all with no pretensions whatsoever.The next illustrations (figs. 8 and 9) show a Japanese seated Buddha, also in wood, acquired in 1914 by the bequest of John Scott Bradstreet.9 It was then thought to be 19th century and had the arms, one of which held a flower, complete. On examination the lower arms proved to be replacements of the 19th century and the remainder of the figure to be of handsome 13th-century workmanship. It is thus, in a sense, a new acquisition and forms, with the last two sculptures, a distinguished group of Japanese wooden statuary of the Kamakura period.The Mioshin-ji Temple in Kyoto was a most important center of Japanese Zen Buddhism and of statecraft; its artistic treasures are famous and few have ever left the temple area. The important painters Kano Sanraku and his son Kano Sansetsu worked here in the early 17th century, and from their decorations in the Tensho-in Tacchu Sub-Temple the Institute has acquired four sliding doors (figs. 10-13 and cover illustration) which left the complex in 1886 when a Minister of Finance of the Meiji era took them in exchange for construction work.10 These doors are to be attributed to Kano Sansetsu (1589-1651) and are a rare and most important evidence of the late Momoyama-early Edo period of Japanese art.The Eight Hermits of Zen mythology and their particular attributes are represented upon the Minneapolis doors. Clouds cross the gold background, a mist the foreground, and architectural and natural elements bind and accent the compositions. These elements are as Hieratic in their isolation and boldness as the human figures but, as the figures and whatever their traditional features, they show a naturalistic conviction which may owe something to Western art (as known to the Japanese through the Jesuit missionaries) and which produces an effect especially and most handsomely Japanese in the treatment of themes originally devised by the master painters of China.Two Japanese screens, each of six panels, have entered the collections through patronage which wishes itself to be (and is proudly) recorded as that of “A St. Paul Friend.” The earlier screen is attributed to the Momoyama period (1556-1650) and show swans in and by a torrent (fig. 14).11 The combination of full-blooded yet delicate observation of the natural scene with a triumphant and fresh sense of decoration is especially handsome. Grace and melody seem appropriate words for this painting in which, however exotic the language of representation may be, one is aware only of the openness, gaiety, and devotion of its artist.The second screen is slightly later and is attributed to the Kanbun period (1661-1672) of the Ukiyoye period. The subject, popular in Japanese painting, is a show of horsemanship and is rendered by a slightly more naive artist than that of the Momoyama screen, yet an artist of vigor, excitement, and amusingly shrewd observation.12 Although this is a very Japanese painting, the supra-national echoes and similarities so frequent in art may be found, and the world of Persian miniatures recalled.Endnotes
  1. See Bernhard Karlgren, A Catalogue of the Chinese Bronzes in the Alfred F. Pillsbury Collection (Minneapolis, 1952).
  2. See Catalogue of an Exhibition of Imperial Robes and Textiles of the Chinese Court (Minneapolis, 1943) and An Exhibition of Chinese Imperial Robes and Textiles (catalogue), (Minneapolis, 1960).
  3. 62.71.1 Bronze, inlaid with turquoise, 9 1/4 h. x 16 1/4 in. See The Chinese Exhibition, Nov., 1935-March, 1936 (London), no. 134, lent by C. T.Loo, Paris. A very similar bronze passed through Sotheby & Co., London, 23rd April, 1963, lot 97.
  4. 72.70.8 and 62.70.7. Colors on silk, each 62 x 35 1/4 in. Published by O. Siren, A History of Early Chinese Painting, vol. 11, pp. 44, 63, 88 and plates 15 and 16.
  5. 62.70.9. Ink and light colors on silk, 62 x 35 1/4 in.
  6. 63.5. Ink and light colors on silk, 20 1/4 x 18 in.
  7. 62.14.
  8. 62.22. The Lillian Z. Turnblad Memorial Fund. Cypress wood, 29 1/2 in. h., with remains of paint and gilding, signed on the plugs which establish the feet in the base. Dated statues by the artist are known from 1196 and 1201.
  9. 14.100. Wood with traces of gilding; 20 h., 14 1/2 in. greatest depth, 10 3/4 in. greatest length.
  10. 63.37.1-4. The Putnam Dana McMillan Fund. Tempera on gold leaf, each panel 45 1/2 x 65 1/2 in. The doors bear mounts of the late 17th century on more recent frames. Ex collection: Naoharu Kataoka (1886); Kenjiro Takeda. Published Kokka, 806 (May, 1959), ill. p. 171; Kyoto Museum, Sanraku to Sansetsu, by Tsugoyoshi Doi, Kuwana Bunseido (Kyoto, 1943), p. 157; Tsugoyoshi Doi, Momoyama Shohekiga no Kansho, Hounsha (Kyoto, 1943). Traditionally attributed to Kano Sanraku, by Doi to Kano Sansetsu.
  11. 63.3. Tempera, overall dimensions 65 1/4 x 125 in. Exhibited in Kyoto previous to 1910. Ex collection Yamada, Tokyo.
  12. 62.77. Tempera, overall dimensions 65 1/4 x 146 in. Exhibited in Kyoto previous to 1910.
Referenced Works of Art
  1. Wine Vessel in the Shape of a Goose, ca. 300 B.C.
    Chinese, late Chou Dynasty (650-250 B.C.)
    Bronze inlaid with turquoise, 9 1/4 x 16 1/4 in.
    Bequest of Miss Alice O'Brien, 62.71.1.
  2. Wü Yüan-yü
    Chinese, 12th century (Sung Dynasty, 960-1260)
    Gander
    Colors on silk, 62 x 35 1/4 in.
    Gift of Miss Alice O'Brien, 62.70.8.
  3. Wü Yüan-yü
    Chinese, 12th century (Sung Dynasty, 960-1260)
    Goose and Goslings
    Colors on silk, 62 x 35 1/4 in
    Gift of Miss Alice O'Brien, 62.70.7.
  4. Jan Ping-shan
    Chinese (Ming Dynasty, 1368-1644
    A Poet Looking at a Waterfall
    Ink and light colors on silk, 62 x 35 1/4 in.
    Gift of Miss Alice O'Brien, 62.70.9.
  5. A Lady
    Chinese, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
    Ink and light colors on silk, 20 1/4 x 18 in.
    Bequest of Mrs. Harriet Clark Hanley, 63.5.
  6. Tendai Patriarch
    Japanese, ca. 1200
    Wood, glass eyes, 14 1/2 in.
    Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard P. Gale, 62.14.
  7. Joga
    Japanese, ca. 1200
    A General of Yakushi Buddha
    Cypress wood with remains of paint and gilding, 29 1/2 in
    The Lillian Z. Turnblad Memorial Fund, 62.22.
  8. Seated Buddha
    Japanese, 13th century
    Wood with traces of gilding, 20 x 14 1/4 x 10 3/4in.
    Bequest of John Scott Bradstreet, 14.100.
  9. Side view of Fig. 8.
  10. Kano Sansetsu
    Japanese (1589-1651)
    Mioshin-ji Temple, Kyoto
    The Eight Hermits
    Tempera on gold leaf, each panel 45 1/2 x 65 1/2 in.
    The Putnam Dana McMillan Fund, 63.37.1-4.
  11. Detail of fig. 10 (63.37.2).
  12. Detail of fig. 10 (63.37.4).
  13. Cover illustration
    Detail of fig. 10 (63.37.3)
  14. Swans and Willow Trees
    Japanese, attributed to the Kano School,
    Momoyama Period (1556-1650)
    Tempera on paper, 65 1/4 x 125 in., overall dimensions
    Gift of a St. Paul Friend, 63.3.
  15. Show of Horsemanship
    Japanese, attributed to the Ukiyoye School,
    Kanbun Period (1661-1672)
    Tempera on paper, 65 1/4 x 146 in., overall dimensions
    Gift of a St. Paul Friend, 62.77.
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Source: Anthony M. Clark, "Recent Accessions of Japanese and Chinese Art," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 53, no. 2 (June, 1964): 29-49.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009