Tale Of Genji at Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery

By Kara Odum ‘15Staff Writer

The upcoming “Tale of Genji” exhibit in the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery will feature an array of 60 Japanese woodblock prints pulled from the Scripps collection, which currently holds over 2,000 such prints, and some from a private collection in Pasadena. Japanese woodblock prints were made in the ukiyo-e period of Japanese art from the 17th to 20th century. The ukiyo-e process for making woodblocks consisted of three artists working together to create a print, beginning with carving an image into a block, then applying colored vegetable pigments to the block, and finally pressing the inked block onto paper to form the print. Due to the low cost and quick production method, prints were readily available to the Japanese populace and many survive today.

The exhibit will focus on a re-telling of  “The Tale of Genji,” a classic of Japanese literature, written by Japanese noblewoman Murasaki Shikibu in the 11th century that has since inspired theater, manga, fiction, operas, and movies. The story is centered on Genji, an emperor’s son raised as a commoner, and his adventures through life and in romance. The prints on display date back to the 1820s to 1850s and offer a more updated re-telling of Genji through the eyes of 19th century Japanese artists by using a widely popular traditional hero. A full-color illustrated book cataloging the exhibit and the Scripps collection, edited by Dr. Andreas Marks, will be available for purchase.

Professor Bruce Coats of the Scripps Art History Department has organized this exhibit as well as a concurrent exhibit in the Clark Humanities Museum. He has been teaching “The Tale of Genji” for 25 years as a Core III class, and more recently as an art history class. The Clark Humanities Museum exhibition will offer a different look at “The Tale of Genji”—this one was created by students who chose a main set of 54 and several auxiliary prints. On Saturday, Oct. 27 at 4 p.m., there will be a lecture at the Clark Humanities Museum on “The Tale of Genji” and the chosen prints by the foremost authority on Japanese prints, Dr. Sarah Thompson, who is the curator of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston. The official exhibit will open with an evening reception on Oct. 27, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Williamson Gallery.

If you are interested in seeing more Japanese prints, Scripps has one of the largest collections outside Japan that focuses of “The Tale of Genji.” All students are welcome to talk to Professor Mary MacNaughton about viewing the prints in Baxter Hall.