The Enduring Image

The Exhibition


The culture of Japan reflects its geographical situation in a telling mixture of the indegenous and the foreign. The 6th century haniwa figure, comes from a funerary context linked to Korea. The arrival of Buddhism in the mid-6th century had a profound effect; with its interest in the personification of virtues and characteristics. The 11th century sculpture of Kichijoten has a recognisable ancestry reaching back to the Indian goddess Laksmi. A further connection between south Asia and Japan is seen in the scroll painting depicting Bodhidharma; the famous Indian monk who founded, in east Asia the sect which we know today as Zen. Other Buddhist sculpture include the gilt and lacquered bronze of the historical Buddha and the restrained sculpture of a retired townsman, who has abandoned everyday life for the solace of religion .

The samurai warriors first came to prominence in the Heian period (AD 794-1185). The suit of armour though is of a latter date, the earliest parts from the late 16th century. Another distinctive Japanese art form, No theatre is remembered for its sparing use of gesture and expressive use of masks. The mask exhibited is of a young woman. The theatre and the 'Floating World' of the courtesans, can be seen in prints of the same Edo period: a famous actor and elegant prostitute. The Japanese expertise in miniature carving is illustrated by a small sculpture of a Daoist immortal riding on a three- legged toad.

Sustained contact between Japan and Europe began in this period through trade. Figures of typical Japanese men and women, made of glazed porcelain with coloured enamels, were eagerly acquired in Europe where the porcelain technique was discovered only in the 18th century. A figure of a carousing European shows Japanese amusement at foreigners.

Two paintings show man as a Hero triumphing over evil, but also insignificant beside the magnificence of nature; these are the handscroll of the legend of the shuten Doji and the hanging scroll, a lakeside village in the mountains.


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