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Bijin-ga

The Feminine in Japanese Art

July 13, 2007 - July 13, 2007

The women portrayed in art throughout Japanese history show a changing style of hair and costume as well as social standing.  In older times there were images of powerful female rulers, legendary heroines and famous courtesans depicted in a melancholic ideal style with a serious demeanor. The courtesan was an important person in the social life of old Japan and a major subject matter for artists.  Usually the courtesans were depicted in carefully wrapped kimono and could often be seen applying makeup, while being quite relaxed and self-possessed. The old ukiyo-e prints were often concerned with showing women in genre representations of ordinary scenes from daily life, leisure and entertainment. Westernization in the second half of the 19th century brought changes and a new freedom in the images of Japanese women from the well dressed ladies of the wealthy merchant class to the folk dress of the women of rural Japan as well as images of the backbone of Japanese society, the housewife.  Images of women portrayed in the shin-hanga prints of the early 20th century contrast with these and show the changing world of the woman in industrial Japan.  Some of the modern Japanese feminine images are impressionistic or slightly abstract and show Western influence.  This exhibition will include images of women with different hairstyles and costumes from the various historical eras in Japan including modern depictions of women.  The media will include woodblock prints, painting scrolls and sculptures.

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