Press release


March 30-June 25, 2000
Tisch Galleries

This press kit for Masterpieces of Japanese Art from the Mary Griggs Burke Collection includes a general release about the exhibition, immediately following, as well as these four releases, to which you can link by clicking on their titles:

Mary Griggs Burke;


Exhibition Catalogue;

Blossoms of Many Colors.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will present an unprecedented exhibition of Japanese art drawn from the renowned Mary Griggs Burke Collection, the largest and most encompassing private collection of Japanese art outside Japan, beginning March 28. Bringing together some 200 masterpieces — including paintings, sculpture, ceramics, calligraphy, lacquerware, and ukiyo-e prints — Masterpieces of Japanese Art from the Mary Griggs Burke Collection will reveal the remarkable range and quality of Mrs. Burke's activities as a collector over the past 37 years.

Organized chronologically — from the earliest Japanese cultures of around 3000 B.C. to the Edo period (1615-1868) — the exhibition will provide an overview of the development of Japanese art as well as explore the use of divergent artistic traditions, including those adapted from other cultures and those that reflect native Japanese tastes. This is the first major exhibition of Japanese art at the Metropolitan Museum since 1975. Many works in the exhibition, including the luminous, early-17th-century screen, Women Contemplating Floating Fans, have never before been seen by the public.

"The collection of Mary Griggs Burke has long been recognized as one of the finest assemblages of Japanese art in private hands," commented Philippe de Montebello, Director of the Metropolitan Museum. "It is the only American collection ever to be shown at the Tokyo National Museum, a testament to Mrs. Burke's sensitivity to and appreciation of Japanese aesthetics. From the astonishing early ceramics to painted 17th-century ukiyo-e evocations of urban life, these works span vividly the remarkable history of one of the world's great cultures."

Early Works
A ceramic vessel from the middle Jomon period (ca. 2500-1500 B.C.) — with a flamboyant rim and decorative markings made by impressing parts of a rope into the clay body — opens the exhibition. Other early ceramics include a Haniwa Figure of a Young Woman with a Large Chignon and a barrel-shaped bottle (yokobe), both from the sixth century.

Ties to China and Korea are most evident in the introduction of Buddhism to Japan from the Korean kingdom of Paekche in 538. Building temples and commissioning painting and sculptures were important activities for the members of the imperial family and other privileged individuals during the Nara (710-784), Heian (794-1185), and Kamakura (1185-1333) periods.

Highlights in the exhibition include several sculptures created using the yosegi or joined-wood technique, such as an image of Bishamonten, the guardian of the North, and that of Fudo, a fierce protector. A representation of the Bodhisattva Jizo is the work of Kaikei (active 1185-1223), a member of the prominent Kei school noted for his tempering of the powerful realism of the Kamakura period with the courtly elegance of an earlier style. The blending of the imported religion of Buddhism with such older native traditions as Shinto is illustrated by rare examples of male and female Shinto gods from the 10th century, and an evocative 14th-century moonlit landscape housing the Shinto Kasuga shrine in Nara.

In the ninth century, the creation of the kana script — which abbreviates selected Chinese characters to represent syllables in Japanese — led to a flowering of literature, painting, and calligraphy that reflected native interests and aesthetics. Examples such as the 14th-century Painting Competition and the contemporaneous Portrait of Fujiwara Teika (1162-1241) illustrate the importance of poets and their oeuvres. Famous collaborative works, such as One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets, Selected at Mount Ogura, for which Hon'ami Koetsu (1558-1637) wrote the calligraphy and Tawaraya Sotatsu (died ca. 1640) designed the writing paper, continue this tradition. The Japanese genius for dramatic narratives is exemplified by 17th- and 18th-century album leaves, handscrolls, folding screens, and a lacquer box depicting scenes from the Tale of Genji — often considered the world's first novel — written by Lady Murasaki Shikibu around 1000.

Introduced from China in the 13th century, Zen Buddhism brought the concept and technique of ink painting to Japan. At first used exclusively in temples associated with this branch of the religion, ink paintings and Zen themes soon moved to the secular world. Recently acquired, a charmingly painted handscroll depicting the Ten Oxherding Songs, and dated 1278, provides an early example of this Zen theme in which the actions of the young herdsman and the powerful ox he tends serve as metaphors for the quest for enlightenment.

14th-18th Century
An area of particular strength within the collection, Muromachi-period (1391-1573) ink paintings include the diptych Orchids by Bonpo and a depiction of the Chinese Zen masters Bukan, Kanzan, and Jittoku by Reisai, both active in the 15th century. Sesson Shukei, a master of the 16th century, is represented by two landscapes and by the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, a parody of a traditional Chinese theme of individualism and eremetism that resonated in Zen circles.

The bold graphic forms of the green willows and gold bridges in the 16th-century Willows and Bridges exemplify the taste of the ruling elite during the short-lived Momoyama period (1573-1615). This pair of folding screens is often thought to represent the bridge over the Uji River, in southeast Kyoto, a famous Japanese site celebrated in Japanese literature as early as the eighth century. Powerful, simplified designs and striking contrasts in shape and color are also evident in the seven examples of lacquer in the Kodaiji style, such as the set of shelves decorated with a grapevine motif. Named after the small Kodaiji, built as a mortuary temple by the widow of the powerful warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi, lacquers in this style illustrate a novel and simplified use of the Japanese maki-e technique, in which designs are created by sprinkling pieces of gold onto a black lacquer background. The vibrant presence and tactile surfaces of ceramics produced for use in the tea ceremony, first codified in the 16th century, also illustrate the aesthetics of this period. Extraordinary examples include a water jar from the Iga kilns, a black Seto tea bowl, and a white Shino example sketchily painted with a design of a bridge and a house.

A comparison between two pairs of screens depicting cranes — one by Ishida Yutei (1721-1780) and the other by Nagasawa Rosetsu (1754-1799) — attests to the liveliness and diversity that characterize Japanese art during the prosperous and stable Edo period. Set against a gold background, Yutei's cranes are drawn with clean black outlines and painted in shades of white, black, and gray, with touches of color around the heads. Rosetsu's birds, on the other hand, are created with bold, black slashes of ink placed against empty areas of white paper. The use of this technique, and the somewhat eccentric personalities of the birds, explain his position as one of the three great individualist masters of 18th-century painting, along with Ito Jakuchu (1716-1800) and Soga Shohaku (1730-1781), who are also represented in the exhibition.

The development of the Nanga School provides another example of the Japanese openness to new themes, techniques, and ways of seeing during the Edo period. Artists in this school based their work on the art of Chinese literati masters who painted as an act of self-cultivation and self-expression. Ike Taiga's (1723-1776) Gathering at the Orchard Pavilion — a depiction of a famous Chinese poetry party said to have been held on March 3, 353 — will pay homage to this tradition while illustrating a distinctly Japanese flavor in its narrative quality, abundant use of pastel colors, and dense, decorative brushwork.

A recently acquired, six-fold screen entitled Women Contemplating Floating Fans provides a rare and important example of the rise of genre painting in the late 16th and early 17th century. Eighteen stately women and their four young attendants stand or sit along the railings of a bridge casting their fans into the water and watching them float away, a possible reference to the tradition of discarding used fans at the end of each summer. The women's simple hairstyles and the stripes and small patterns in their clothing help date the painting to the early 17th century. The elaborate hairstyle and brilliant designs on the robe of the late-17th-century Kanbun Beauty, on the other hand, illustrates changes in fashion during this period. This painting belongs to the tradition known as ukiyo-e, or "images of the floating world," which celebrates the pleasures and cultural heroes of urban dwellers in Edo (present-day Tokyo) and Kyoto. Paintings of this genre were among the first objects acquired by Mrs. Burke and her late husband Jackson Burke when they began collecting seriously in 1963 — the start of their journey through Japanese history, culture, and art that will be recorded in this exhibition.

Catalogue and CD-ROM
The exhibition will be accompanied by a full-color catalogue, Bridge of Dreams: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection of Japanese Art by Miyeko Murase, Atsumi Professor Emerita of Columbia University, and Research Curator in the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Asian Art. It will be available at the Museum's Bookshop for $75 (hardcover) and $50 (paperback). The exhibition catalogue is made possible through the generous support of The Dillon Fund.

The Metropolitan Museum will also produce a CD-ROM entitled The Paths Dreams Take: Japanese Art from the Collections of Mary Griggs Burke and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in conjunction with the exhibition, delving into themes including "Buddhist Deities and Native Gods," "Art for the Military Elite," and "Urban Pleasures." This electronic introduction to the pleasures and fundamental aspects of Japanese art offers narrated journeys through illustrations of classic tales, poetic excerpts, Mrs. Burke's own account of the building of her collection, and more. The text on the CD-ROM is written by Elizabeth Hammer-Munemura of the Museum's Education Department and Denise Patry Leidy, Associate Research Curator of the Department of Asian Art, with Miyeko Murase, the exhibition's curator.

The Museum will offer a variety of educational programs related to the exhibition, including three major events to be held in the Metropolitan's Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium: an international symposium on Japanese art history, April 29 and 30, accompanied by the publication of symposium papers, edited by Miyeko Murase and Judith G. Smith of the Department of Asian Art; a Noh performance on April 2; and a Taiko performance on May 20. Also, a series of lectures, films, teacher workshops, and events for families and students will be offered. All programs are free with Museum admission (with the exception of the Noh performance, for which tickets are $30).

Masterpieces of Japanese Art from the Mary Griggs Burke Collection has been organized by Miyeko Murase, assisted by Masako Watanabe, Senior Research Associate. Exhibition design is by Michael Batista, Exhibition Designer, with graphics by Sue Koch, Senior Graphic Designer, and lighting by Zack Zanolli, Lighting Designer, all of the Museum's Design Department.

Complementing the exhibition will be a special installation in the Arts of Japan galleries in The Sackler Wing, opening in March. The installation of 170 works from the Metropolitan's permanent collection celebrates the many benefactors, past and present, whose generosity has enriched the Museum's Japanese art collection.

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Mary Griggs Burke grew up in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in a Victorian house that she has described as resembling a small museum filled with antiques from a variety of cultures. Although the principal influence was French, Mrs. Burke's mother, who had made a visit to Japan in 1902, owned several Japanese works of art. She also built a Japanese garden at her summer home in Wisconsin.

Mary Burke attended Sarah Lawrence College, where she studied painting with Bradley Walker Tomlin, and later took graduate courses in art history at Columbia University and at the Institute of Fine Arts in New York City. She made the first of many trips to Japan in 1954, at the suggestion of the architect Walter Gropius, to study landscape design for the house she was building in Oyster Bay, Long Island. She was profoundly moved by the art that she saw there and by the people and their understanding of art as an all-embracing way of life.

In 1955 she married Jackson Burke, a printer and designer of typefaces and books. Beginning with the acquisition of ukiyo-e paintings, they soon turned their attention to other areas of Japanese art. The collection expanded to include all major schools of painting, as well as calligraphy, sculpture, lacquerware, textiles, and ceramics. In her collecting activities, Mrs. Burke was assited by Miyeko Murase, then a professor of Japanese art history at Columbia University and currently Research Curator at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Their collaboration has continued to the present. In 1965 Jackson Burke, with the assistance of sculptor Yasuhide Kobashi, created a space to display the collection, and since that time Mary Burke has shared her treasures with thousands of scholars, friends, and students.

Mary Burke's association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art goes back to 1962, when she and her husband began their support of the Museum's program in Japanese art. She is currently a Trustee Emerita. A selection of more than one hundred works from the collection was shown at the Museum in 1975. The present exhibition comprises more than two hundred objects, including many acquired since then and never before seen by the public.

The exhibition of the Mary Griggs Burke Collection at the Tokyo National Museum in 1985 and the subsequent award to Mrs. Burke of the honorary medal of The Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Star, by the Japanese government in 1987 are signal marks of the high esteem in which she is held by the Japanese nation for her activities not only in support of Japanese art but of all facets of Japanese culture.

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In conjunction with the exhibition Masterpieces of Japanese Art from the Mary Griggs Burke Collection -- on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from March 28 through June 25, 2000 -- the Museum will produce a CD-ROM featuring more than 70 of the finest works from the collections of Mary Burke and the Metropolitan. It is designed to introduce to viewers the multifaceted and visually rich world of Japanese art from prehistoric to modern times and enhance the museum visitor's appreciation and understanding of the works of art on display.

Entitled The Paths Dreams Take: Japanese Art from the Collections of Mary Griggs Burke and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the CD-ROM features nearly two hours of narration, as well as explanatory text and hundreds of enlarged details of ancient ceramics, sacred sculpture, narrative paintings, exquisite lacquers, and sumptuous robes. It opens with an introduction by Philippe de Montebello, Director of the Metropolitan Museum, followed by a discussion of the works of art in seven key categories: Ancient Traditions, Buddhist Deities and Native Gods, Native Sensibilities, The Art of Contemplation, Art for the Military Elite, Urban Pleasures, and Fleeting Seasons.

A special feature of the CD-ROM is a personal account by Mrs. Burke of the history of her collection, the finest private assemblage of Japanese art in the West. A discussion of important tea utensils in the collection, shown displayed in Mrs. Burke's chashitsu (tea room), illustrates the way in which these vessels were made to be used and cherished. Additional information is provided by overviews of Japanese history and literature, a description of art materials and techniques, and an extensive glossary. The Paths Dreams Take was produced by the Metropolitan Museum's Education Department under the supervision of Miyeko Murase, Atsumi Professor Emerita of Columbia University and Research Curator in the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Asian Art, with the assistance of Denise Patry Leidy, Associate Research Curator, Asian Art Department, and Elizabeth Hammer-Munemura, Assistant Museum Educator, Education Department. The CD-ROM will be available at the Museum's Bookshop for $29.95, and will be distributed after July 1 by Yale University Press.

System requirements: Pentium PC or better running Windows 95/98NT or PowerPC-based Macintosh running Mac OS 7.6 or higher; 166 MHz or faster processor; 10 MB available RAM (at least 32 MB total RAM); 640 x 480 or greater display set to thousands of colors; 8x speed or faster CD-ROM drive; compatible sound card and speaker; QuickTime 4 (included on the CD).

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Long recognized as one of the finest collections of Japanese art in private hands, the Mary Griggs Burke Collection is the largest and most comprehensive outside Japan. The catalogue that accompanies the Spring 2000 exhibition of the collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art provides a historical overview of the development of Japanese art, illustrating and illuminating some two hundred works -- sculpture, hanging scrolls, handscrolls, folding screens, ceramics, and lacquer -- from the Protoliterate Era (ca. 10,500 B.C.) through the Edo period (1515-1858).

The work presented, arranged chronologically, includes an astonishing ceramic vessel from the prehistoric Jomon period, rare sculptures of Shinto gods from the tenth century, and a recently acquired early depiction, dated 1278, of the Zen theme of the Ten Ox-Herding Songs, an allegory of the quest for enlightenment. The Japanese genius for dramatic narrative is strongly represented by several 17th- and 18th-century works depicting scenes from The Tale of Genji. Other highlights are Willows and Bridge, an extraordinary pair of folding screens that exemplify the taste of the Momoyama period (1573-1515), and Women Contemplating Floating Fans, an important example of genre painting in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. The volume includes a chronology, a glossary, a bibliography, and an index.

Miyeko Murase, Professor Emerita at Columbia University, is currently Research Curator of Japanese Art in the Department of Asian Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

464 pages
449 illustrations, including 320 colorplates
Distributed by The Metropolitan Museum of Art (ISBN 0-87099-941-9, clothbound $75.00; ISBN 0-87099-942-7, paperbound $50.00)
Distributed by Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (ISBN 0-8109-6551-8, clothbound $90.00)
For further information on the catalogue, please call: Marilyn Abel, Publicist, 212-879-6850.

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Exhibition dates: March 10-August 13, 2000
Exhibition location: The Arts of Japan in The Sackler Wing
In conjunction with the exhibition Masterpieces of Japanese Art from the Mary Griggs Burke Collection, which will be on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from March 28 through June 25, a special installation of 140 works opens on March 10 in the Arts of Japan galleries in The Sackler Wing. Drawn entirely from the Museum's permanent collection, Blossoms of Many Colors: Selections from the Permanent Collection of Japanese Art celebrates the many benefactors, past and present, whose generosity has enriched the Metropolitan's Japanese art collection over the past 90 years.

"The Metropolitan Museum's superb collection of Japanese art would not have been possible without our devoted donors," said Philippe de Montebello, Director of the Museum. "Their extraordinary generosity has dramatically enriched and expanded the breadth of our collection."

Organized chronologically from the earliest Japanese cultures of around 3000 B.C. to the Edo period (1615-1868), the installation features various media such as ceramics, handscrolls, hanging scrolls, screens, and lacquerware. Among the many masterpieces on view is an early-15th-century hanging scroll, Life of the Buddha: Abandoning Palace Life from the Muromachi period (1392-1568), an illustrated narrative of the life of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni.

Blossoms of Many Colors was organized by Miyeko Murase, Atsumi Professor Emerita of Columbia University and Research Curator in the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Asian Art, and Masako Watanabe, Senior Research Associate at the Metropolitan. Graphics are by Sue Koch, Senior Graphic Designer, and lighting by Clint Coller and Richard Lichte, Lighting Assistants, all of the Museum's Design Department.

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March 22, 2000

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