Master Work: Coming Soon

cultural exchange

There's something familiar about the young girl in Japanese painter Kishida Ryusei's Portrait of Reiko. Her expression — a smug, sideways glance with a near smile — is strikingly similar to the one Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa wears. While both are revered as masterworks within the art world for capturing the essence of the period in which they were made, Reiko is far less recognizable to the average Westerner. That's because the work has rarely left Japan.

On display from Feb. 16 to May 11, it will be a part of Remaking Tradition: Modern Art of Japan, which showcases more than 50 masterpieces of Japanese modern art, including six works like Reiko certified by the government as important cultural properties, on loan from the Tokyo National Museum. (CMA Japanese artworks will be sent to the Tokyo museum in exchange.)

"It's the first major exhibit in the United States where people can actually see, on our home turf, many of the paintings these scholars have been talking about," says Sinéad Vilbar, who takes over as curator of Japanese and Korean art this month.

Remaking Tradition explores the Western influences on Japanese art following American efforts to establish trade and diplomacy with Pacific nations during the mid-19th century. By late 19th century, artists both embraced and resisted Western ideals.

Japanese artists responded to the cultural shift with the emergence of a technique known as Nihonga or an updated version of traditional Japanese-style painting that can be seen in Yokoyama Taikan's Mount Fuji Rising Above Clouds, a blue and gold folding screen. "He's taking Japan's most famous natural monument and showing it rising above this swath of clouds," she says. "He's really abstracting it and interpreting it through a more modern lens."

On Deck

Van Gogh Repetitions March 2-May 26
This is the first exhibit devoted to Van Gogh's repetitions. "The exhibition challenges the popular caricature of Van Gogh as an artist who always painted in a flurry of overheated emotion," says William Robinson, curator of modern European art. "[It's] the more deliberative, controlled compositions identified in his letters as repetitions."

Yoga: The Art of Transformation June 22-Sept. 7
The museum displays the world's first exhibit on the visual history of the spiritual and physical exercise including Islamic divination texts and early yogic films. "[The exhibit] reveals how the practice, purpose and images of yoga have changed in surprising ways over the last 2,000 years," says Sonya Quintanilla, curator of Indian and Southeast Asian art.

Surrealist Photography: the Raymond Collection Oct. 19-Jan. 11, 2015
Incorporating odd croppings, exaggerated tones and adventurous camera angles, the surrealist photos of the early 20th century explore the juxtaposition of fantasy to reality. "The surrealists used [photography's] believability to subtly disorient us and evoke the strong emotions — including desire, pleasure, disgust, fear — that lurk beneath all our civilized exteriors." says Barbara Tannenbaum, curator of photography.

Share this story: