Exhibition features Japanese woodblock print collection

Jan. 14, 2009 10:16 a.m.
The Actor Nakamura Fukusuke as Chigosuke Wakamaru

Images: Courtesy of Graphic Arts Division, Princeton University Library

An exhibition of Japanese woodblock prints, highlighting changing fashions and evolving print technologies in that country from the late 1600s through the mid-1800s, will run from Jan. 18 through June 7 in Firestone Library's Milberg Gallery.

"Beauty and Bravado in Japanese Woodblock Prints: Highlights From the Gillett G. Griffin Collection" features works donated by Griffin, curator emeritus of the University's Graphic Arts Collection. Griffin retired in 2004 after 52 years at Princeton.

Utagawa Shigetoshi's finished preparatory drawing from the mid-19th century shows legendary fisherman Urashima Tarō riding a mythical turtle.

In 1947, when Griffin was a student at Yale University's School of Fine Arts, one of his professors invited a Japanese print dealer to visit. Griffin's eye fell on a small black-and-white print, which he purchased for $2. The dealer was impressed that such a young man would see the beauty in what turned out to be a print by 17th-century artist Hishikawa Moronobu.

By the end of the year, Griffin had a collection of almost 70 classic Japanese woodblock prints. He continued to study and collect for more than 60 years. That original print, a plate from the book "Kokon Yoshiwara kidan" ("Past and Present Strange Stories From the Yoshiwara"), is part of the exhibition.

A reception and gallery tour will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 25, for the opening of the "Beauty and Bravado" exhibition. A lecture on Japanese prints will be given by Julie Davis, a professor of art history at the University of Pennsylvania, at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 3, in 101 McCormick Hall, followed by a reception in the Milberg Gallery.

The exhibition's hours are: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday; and noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

More information can be found on the Graphic Arts Collection blog.

two lovers

The exhibition showcases works donated by Gillett Griffin, curator emeritus of the University's Graphic Arts Collection. "Reclining Couple Reading a Love Letter" (ca. 1804-1818) by artist Kikugawa Eizan is one of the woodblock prints Griffin collected over the course of 60 years.