‘Focus on the Subject: The Art of the Harari Collection’ at Pacific Asia Museum

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Tsunemasa, “The Four Sleepers,” c. 1745, ink, color and gold pigment on paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Kamansky. Courtesy of Pacific Asia Museum. 1988.65.2

PASADENA — Pacific Asia Museum presents a new exhibition, “Focus on the Subject: The Art of the Harari Collection” from April 5, 2013 to March 30, 2014 in the Frank and Toshie Mosher Gallery of Japanese Art.

Ogawa Ritsuo, “Daruma Carrying a Courtesan Across a Stream,” c. 1740, ink, color, gofun on paper. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Calvin Frazier, Pacific Asia Museum Collection. 1986.67.2

The exhibition includes a full object rotation in October 2013 to accommodate a greater number of objects and protect them from extended exposure to light.

The renowned Harari Collection of Edo (1603-1868) and Meiji (1868-1912) era paintings and drawings is one of the most significant groups of works on paper at Pacific Asia Museum. Amassed in London during the 1950s and ’60s by Ralph Harari, the collection includes ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”); important prints, paintings and sketches by Hokusai, Hiroshige and their schools; paintings by Kano, Tosa, Nanga, and Shijo schools; and decorative paintings including fans.

In the 1980s, Pacific Asia Museum acquired the majority of this collection with the support of several generous donors. Objects from the collection have previously been included in the exhibitions “40 Years of Building the Pacific Asia Museum Collection” in 2011 and “Reflections of Beauty: Women from Japan’s Floating World in 2006,” among others.

“Focus on the Subject” features selected works from this group, and elucidates how Japanese painters and artisans shared their appreciation for subjects including landscapes, physical beauty and pursuits like poetry and tea ceremonies. These recurring themes found in the paintings are echoed in other media from the Pacific Asia Museum collection including ceramics, textiles, lacquerware and sculpture.

By looking at a few of the finest examples of Harari Collection paintings alongside objects featuring similar subjects, visitors will have an opportunity to appreciate these themes from multiple perspectives, thereby deepening their knowledge of Japanese art and culture. In addition, the exhibition will examine the role of the collector both in private and public realms.

“The Harari Collection is one of Pacific Asia Museum’s great treasures,” said Curator Bridget Bray. “While we’ve had objects from the collection on view over the past few years, this exhibition will allow our visitors to get a fuller sense of the range of paintings in the Harari Collection, the stories they tell, and the collecting choices Harari made.”

Key objects in the exhibition include several examples of ukiyo-e. One such work is “Daruma Carrying a Courtesan Across a Stream” by Ogawa Ritsuo (1663-1747). Daruma is the Japanese name for Bodhidharma, the Indian monk who is believed to have taken meditational Buddhism from India to China in the 6th century C.E. In Japan, Daruma is regarded as the founder and patriarch of Zen meditational Buddhism and is often depicted as a sullen monk with large, staring eyes and wearing a red robe as seen here.

In the Edo period, his image often appeared in ukiyo-e paintings and prints beside beautiful courtesans in a humorous juxtaposition of beauty and ugliness. The two figures are often depicted wearing each other’s clothing, though not in the case of this painting.

Related programs for “Focus on the Subject” will include an installment each of the popular Art and Coffee series and Silk Road Storytime series.

Pacific Asia Museum is among the few institutions in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to the arts and culture of Asia and the Pacific Islands. The museum’s mission is to further intercultural understanding through the arts of Asia and the Pacific Islands. Since 1971, it has served a broad audience of students, families, adults, and scholars through its exhibitions and programs.

The museum is located at 46 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena, and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $9 general, $7 students/seniors, and free for museum members and children under 12. Admission is free every fourth Friday of the month. For more information, visit www.pacificasiamuseum.org or call (626) 449-2742.

Left: Watanabe Nangaku (1767-1813), “Girl Reading a Letter,” c.1795, ink and color on silk. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Kamansky. Courtesy of Pacific Asia Museum. 1985.56.6
Right: “Monkey Performing the Sanbaso Dance,” Edo Period (1603-1868); 1800 [“First day of the Monkey Year”]. Ink on paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Ross. Courtesy of Pacific Asia Museum. 1985.55.4

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