Art Museums present virtual ‘Painting Edo’ tours

Japanese art.

Tani Bunchō, Grasses and Moon (detail), Japanese, Edo period, 1817. Hanging scroll; ink on silk. Harvard Art Museums, Promised gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg, TL42147.38. Image: John Tsantes and Neil Greentree; © Robert Feinberg.

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This week, the Harvard Art Museums launched a collection of online tours of the special exhibition “Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection.” The series is made possible through the Museums’ partnership with the Google Cultural Institute and is available on the Google Arts & Culture platform.

The four short, immersive tours showcase stunning examples of hanging scrolls, folding screens, sliding doors, fan paintings, and woodblock-printed books in the exhibition, all of which have been generously promised to the museums by Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg.

The tours are organized into four sections:

Part One provides an overview of the exhibition, including an introductory video with co-curator Rachel Saunders

Part Two visits the “Floating World” of Edo’s licensed pleasure quarters and explores the graphically rich paintings of the School of Kōrin

Part Three invites readers to travel through the evocative ink landscapes of Japan’s “scholar-painters” and to experience the supreme strangeness of Edo’s so-called eccentrics

Part Four traces the expansion of pictorial culture to new markets, takes a close look at the intricacy of folding fan paintings, and steps into the 20th century with compelling works that continue to inform contemporary images and understandings of “Japan.”

“Painting Edo” offers a window onto the supremely rich visual culture of Japan’s early modern era and explores how the Edo period (1615–1868), and the city of Edo (present-day Tokyo), expressed itself during a time of artistic efflorescence. A striking array of paintings in all the major formats is on display — hanging scrolls, folding screens, sliding doors, fan paintings, and woodblock-printed books, among others — from virtually every stylistic lineage of the era, telling a comprehensive story of Edo painting on its own terms.

Other new online content related to the Painting Edo exhibition includes two Art Talks: a general tour of the galleries narrated by exhibition co-curator Rachel Saunders, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Curator of Asian Art; and a second tour focused on a unique set of Zen paintings in the show, led by Leah Justin-Jinich, Ph.D. candidate in Harvard’s Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and a graduate intern in the museums’ Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art. The full range of videos related to the exhibition is available on Vimeo.