Interpretive Resource

Departmental Gallery Exhibition: Modern Prints Given by Oliver H. Statler (1915–2002)

Departmental Gallery Exhibition: Modern Prints Given by Oliver H. Statler (1915–2002)

Oliver H. Statler was devoted to the advancement of modern Japanese prints at a time when the movement had few advocates, even in Japan. His interest in them began when he was an army employee stationed in Tokyo during the Japanese Occupation of World War II. A large number of the prints featured in this exhibition were published in Statler's landmark book Modern Japanese Prints: An Art Reborn of 1956, which charted the still-developing sôsaku hanga (creative print) movement. The book records Statler’s conversations with many of the artists, which often took place in their homes. Through his personal association with the artists, Statler accumulated the most comprehensive collection of modern Japanese prints in the world.

Statler was especially fond of Koshiro Onchi, whose works dominate this exhibition. Onchi was the first Japanese print artist Statler encountered and was largely responsible for piquing Statler’s deep interest in the movement. Statler's book was dedicated to the memory of Onchi, the man who influenced many of the other artists in the currently on display, such as Yoshida Masaji, Yamaguchi Gen, and Sekino Jun'ichiro.

Statler’s relationship with the Art Institute dates back to the 1950s, when he facilitated the museum’s acquisition of several modern prints. In the following years, Statler also donated a number of prints to the museum. His personal collection was exhibited at the Art Institute in 1960, and was the first major exhibition of sosaku hanga in America. Through his efforts, Statler was responsible for educating his fellow Americans about the Japanese artists that he so admired. In the aftermath of war, these prints were the initially appreciated and collected by those outside of Japan.

The Clarence Buckingham Gallery of Japanese Prints honors the early and intense commitment of Chicagoan Clarence Buckingham (1854–1913) to the Art Institute. Beginning in the 1890s, Buckingham, assisted by advisors such as curator Frederick W. Gookin and architect Frank Lloyd Wright, assembled a collection of Japanese woodblock prints of exceptional quality and range.

One year after Buckingham’s death, his collection was lent to the Art Institute. His sister, Kate, continued to acquire works, and in 1925 she formally gave the prints to the museum, along with an endowment to maintain and expand the collection. The original group of about 2,500 works has grown through purchases and gifts to more than 16,000.

Because prints are works on paper, they are susceptible to fading with exposure to light. Therefore, the artwork in this gallery is changed every three months, and the lighting is maintained at a low level to protect the prints.

20th century, Japanese

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