Since 1932, when the Portland Art Museum received the gift of the Mary Andrews Ladd collection of nearly 800 Japanese prints, the institution has been renowned for the depth and breadth of its collection of this popular medium. Since that time Japanese prints have taken center stage in a variety of exhibitions, and this fall Poetic Imagination in Japanese Art: Selections from the Collection of Mary and Cheney Cowles continues that tradition by offering visitors an extraordinary chance to see more than 100 paintings and works of calligraphy from one of the finest private collections of Japanese art in North America.
Poetry, painting, and calligraphy have always been deeply intertwined in East Asia, but in Japan the nature and meaning of those relationships have evolved over time, responding to larger cultural changes. The artworks in this exhibition, spanning the eighth to 20th centuries, illuminate the central role of poetry in the visual arts across time and in diverse social contexts.
Formed over the past four decades, the collection of Mary and Cheney Cowles is exceptional in its quality and breadth, and unique in that it is deeply informed by classical Japanese taste as well as welcoming of idiosyncratic departures from the canon. Poetic Imagination in Japanese Art focuses on one of the great strengths of the Cowleses’ holdings: visual art closely tied to poetic traditions.
“While those deeply familiar with Japanese culture will appreciate the literary allusions in these works, all visitors will be able to savor their evocative beauty,” says curator Maribeth Graybill, The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Asian Art at the Portland Art Museum. “This is an exhibition that invites contemplative looking and emotional response. We hope that viewers will be inspired to compose their own verses about what they see and feel.”
Visitors of all ages are invited to find poetic inspiration during three “Japanese Poetry, Art, and Culture Weekends.” These occasional special event weekends will feature demonstrations of calligraphy and ikebana—the Japanese art of flower arrangement—as well as music performances, poetry reading and writing opportunities, artmaking, and even the chance to sample Japanese small bites and sweets from local makers. Partners, performers, and vendors include snacks from Beaverton-based Oyatsupan Bakery; poetry writing, reading, display with Write Around Portland; origami demonstration and art making with Yuki Origami (Yuki Martin); and calligraphy demonstrations with Sora Shodo.
Additionally every Thursday morning there will be a public Ikebana demonstration in partnership with the Portland chapter of Ikebana International.
Japanese Poetry, Art and Culture Weekends
October 19, 5 – 8 p.m. (admission $5 after 5 p.m.)
Children under 17 years old are always free.