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<< Wednesday, January 30, 2013 >>


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Facing Two Directions: A Japanese Painter Looks to China

Exhibit - Painting | January 30 – May 19, 2013 every Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday | 11 a.m.-5 p.m. |  Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive


Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive


A magnificent pair of screens painted in ink on an unusual background of silver and gold by Sakaki Hyakusen (1697–1752), the founding father of Nanga (Southern School) painting in Japan, present a shimmering vision of a watery landscape. The screens display elements that are unusual at this early point in Nanga painting—precise brushwork, detailed treatment of foreground elements, and the incorporation of spatial effects to produce atmosphere—revealing Hyakusen’s surprising mastery of Chinese painting technique.

James Cahill describes Hyakusen as an artist facing two directions: one toward the celebrated past of Ming and early Qing dynasty Chinese painting, and the other toward the future by influencing succeeding generations of Nanga painters such as Yosa Buson (1716–83), whose screen Landscape with Travelers is also on view.

Hyakusen appears to be anomalous in his ability to distinctly interpret Chinese painting traditions with great subtlety and skill. Most Nanga artists learned their techniques and painterly style not from original Chinese artworks but from woodblock-printed manuals that were imported into a very insular Japan. The varied brushwork and the complex compositional techniques evident in these screens suggest that Hyakusen had first-hand knowledge of genuine works of art from China, which he perhaps saw in the open port of Nagasaki.

The screens, a recent gift to BAM/PFA, are about 250 years old and yet the painting remains fresh and exhilarating. Still, the paintings show their age, including oxidation of the surface, grime, and some damage to the mounting and backing on the screens. BAM/PFA is actively pursuing funding for conservation of these important works of art to secure their preservation for future generations.


 $10 General admission,  $0 UC Berkeley students, faculty, and staff,  $7 Non-UC Berkeley students Senior citizens (65 & over) Disabled persons Young adults (13-17)


bampfa@berkeley.edu, 510-642-0808