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Beyond Golden Clouds: Japanese Screens from the Art Institute of Chicago and the Saint Louis Art Museum

Janice Katz, General Editor

2009
Hardcover $55.00; Softcover $34.95
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Summary: 

Part utilitarian and part fine art, the Japanese folding screen has captured the western imagination since the 16th century. Stretching across their surfaces are, for the most part, compositions of bright mineral pigments painted on gleaming gold-leaf grounds. More so than smaller painting formats, the screen is the canvas upon which Japanese artists have historically realized their most expansive visions, which is why they are so often career-defining masterpieces. However varied the subjects portrayed and the painting styles adopted, there are unfortunately very few opportunities today to see large numbers of screens displayed together, and museum visitors must satisfy themselves with only one or two examples at a time. The collections of Japanese folding screens at the Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM) and the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC), while always a large draw, have been underexposed, under-researched, and therefore, under the radar. Moreover, they are complementary. With this exhibition and catalogue, we hope to bring the scope of the significant collections of Japanese screens at these two great institutions to the public eye. The exhibition, which will be shown at both museums, will include 19 of the most important screens or pairs of screens from the AIC and 13 from SLAM.

The screens date from the 16th through the 20th century. This range will make the exhibition unique among previous shows of screens, since none has included modern and contemporary works. The earliest in the show is a pair of screens depicting a bustling ink landscape by Sesson Shûkei (c. 1490–after 1577). Willow Bridge and Waterwheel by Hasegawa Sôya is a tour de force, produced during the folding screen’s heyday in the 17th century. Contemporary pieces include Yamakawa Shûhô’s Relaxing in the Shade and Kayama Matazô’s powerful Star Festival.

In addition to illuminating and engaging entries on each screen, the book will feature several essays. Janice Katz will write on the development of screens from the earliest extant works through the Edo period, considering distinct uses of folding screens as well as forgotten chapters in the standard narrative. Her essay will also discuss the Spanish encounter with screens through the galleon trade in the 17th century, and the screen’s impact on artists and collectors in the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Finally, she will trace the formation of the collection of screens at both the Art Institute of Chicago and the Saint Louis Art Museum, paying attention to current methods of their display and conservation. Philip Hu will write about the connections between Chinese and Japanese screen painting, in particular the stylistic and literary influences of China on Japan. An essay by Alicia Volk will focus on modern and contemporary Japanese screens, examining postwar artistic trends and interests in new media. Tamamushi Satoko will discuss Tosa Mitsuoki’sFlowering Cherry and Autumn Maples with Poem Slips, and will highlight her new findings on the piece’s depiction of calligraphy on poems slips and the larger context for such works.

The Art Institute of Chicago, 2009 
11 1/2 x 9 3/4 in.; 216 pages; 130 color illustrations 
Hardcover ISBN 978-0-300-948-0 
Softcover ISBN 978-0-86559-232-2