Sackler Gallery Presents Masterworks of Hokusai and Rare Buddhist Paintings

Two major Japanese exhibitions of artists whose works reflect the vitality and interests of 19th-century Edo (now Tokyo) will open at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in March 2012, coinciding with the National Cherry Blossom Festival and centennial celebration of Tokyo’s gift of cherry trees to Washington.

In “Masters of Mercy: Buddha’s Amazing Disciples,” Kano Kazunobu’s (1816-63) phantasmagoric paintings reflect a popular theme in Edo art: the lives and deeds of the Buddha’s legendary 500 disciples. The exhibition, on view March 10 through July 8, 2012, will feature selections from Kazunobu’s 100-painting series created between 1854 and 1863 for the important Pure Land Buddhist temple, Zōjōji, located in the heart of Edo.

Little known and never before displayed outside Japan, Kazunobu’s epic series brilliantly imagines Buddha’s disciples at work in the world, engaged in activities ranging from miraculous acts of compassion to everyday chores, such as washing clothes and caring for animals. The series was on view for the first time to the modern general public in a widely hailed exhibition held at the Edo-Tokyo Museum in Tokyo last spring.

Opening March 24, 2012, “Hokusai: Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji,” highlights Japan’s most famous artist, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), and his most acclaimed print series, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, which includes some of the best-known images in world art, including “Beneath the Wave Off Kanagawa” or “The Great Wave” and “South Wind at Clear Dawn” or “Red Fuji.”

The exhibition, on view through June 17, 2012, will provide a rare opportunity for visitors to see prints of exceptional quality representing all 46 images in this series; it was so popular at the time of its first publication from 1830-32 that 10 additional designs were published under the original title. The exhibition will also explore the spiritual meaning and emotional resonance of Mount Fuji in Hokusai’s late career.

Designed by Hokusai in his 70s, Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji was a landmark in Japanese print publishing, with innovative compositions, techniques and coloration; it established landscape as a new subject for Japanese prints.

The exhibition features loans from major institutional and private collections.

“Masters of Mercy: Buddha’s Amazing Disciples” is organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Daihonzan Zōjōji and Nikkei Inc. in collaboration with Asano Laboratories Inc. Funding for the exhibition is provided by The Anne van Biema Endowment Fund.

“Hokusai: Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” is organized by the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, with funding provided by The Anne van Biema Endowment Fund.

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day, except Dec. 25, and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For more information about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs and other events, the public may visit

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