Did you know that we frequently change the works on view in our collection galleries? A new rotation of Japanese paintings and prints focuses on images of foreigners in Japanese art to consider how art shapes opinions about "the other."
Compelling paintings and prints of Tatar horsemen playing polo, Portuguese traders wearing balloon-like trousers, round-eyed Jesuit missionaries, top-hatted British merchants, red-haired American naval officers, and others demonstrate Japan’s curiosity about those foreign to the archipelago. These closely observed works, most dating to the 17th through 19th centuries, record the facial features, clothing, hairstyles, manners, and customs of their non-Japanese subjects and often include their “exotic” belongings, such as dogs on leashes, framed oil paintings, accordions, wine glasses, and telescopes.
From a pair of six-panel screens showing the arrival of a Portuguese ship in the early 1600s to the Black Ship Scroll depicting Commodore Matthew Perry’s 1854 expedition to open Japan to a series of popular prints of foreigners at the newly opened port of Yokohama in the 1860s and the 1870s, artworks from the museum’s collection reveal an impulse to document and share knowledge about the outside world.
This selection explores how these images may have both promoted cross-cultural understanding while also creating stereotypes based on nationality and physical attributes.
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Image: Arrival of a Portuguese ship (detail), one of a pair, approx. 1620–1640. Japan. Edo period (1615–1868). Ink, colors, and gold on paper. Asian Art Museum, The Avery Brundage Collection, B60D77+. Photograph © Asian Art Museum.