This book is a masterpiece about a masterpiece. Not only is it the best catalog I know of displaying these breathtaking world treasures, it's also the only one I've ever seen that zooms in close on this style of work, visually and textually, graphically and technically. If you have ANY interest in seeing these pieces as if you owned them, or have ever wondered about the techniques behind such work, don't hesitate. Over my long lifetime of collecting books and catalogs concerning Japanese painting, I've never seen anything like it and have always wanted to; it's a deeply-held wish granted. A thousand thanks to all who helped make it happen.
This book has been released in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name that opened at the National Gallery in Washington DC on 30 March. The exhibition is only on for 30 days, and it's doubtful whether the paintings will ever be on display in the US again as they are rather fragile and have only been displayed all together once before in over 100 years.
As a local I've been to see the exhibition several times and it is truly superb: the detail in the 30 bird-and-flower paintings is wonderful, but also the arrangements of the plants and animals is lovely. When you go back to see the scrolls again (and again) you keep gaining new appreciation of the works. Little details catch your eye such as the tilt of a bird's head, the patterning of the roosters' feathers, the little wavy feathers on the back of the phoenix's neck, the exquisite scales of the fish. Initially I wondered why there were so many paintings of humble chickens, but after studying them so much I now appreciate that the rooster, in all its different plumages, is a truly beautiful bird!
It's because of the great beauty in the little details that a good catalog book is a very worthwhile purchase. I browsed the display copies in the National Gallery and they looked very good, with lots of nice blow-ups of different sections of the paintings. Unfortunately, the books sold out very early into the exhibition so I've placed my order with Amazon and I hope it arrives soon. It will be a terrific souvenir of a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition.
This is the most amazing art history book that I have ever seen! Finally a book that gives the reader as complete a visual experience as could be had without seeing the actual paintings. This book sets a new standard for all such works in the future. All other art history books and catalogues pale by comparison to this show catalogue. First, we get a presentation of the exhibit in its entirety, and how each painting contributes to the whole. Next, at least three levels of viewing are presented for each painting, the overall painting, closer views of key areas, and finally seeing a close and detailed view of the paint on its textile surface. It continues with the historical and cultural analysis of the period of the paintings creation and finally a thorough analysis of the technical aspects of the paintings; pigment, paint, supports, etc. Just a fabulous exploration of a small body of work by one painter. Amazing. When I saw the story about this exceptional exhibit on the PBS News Hour I really regretted that I did not have the money to fly from the west coast to Washington to see the paintings. This book is definitely the next best thing and at at quite a reasonable cost considering the alternative. I have not as yet read all of the text, but if it lives up to the visual impact, as I feel sure it will, it will still be a total understatement of the triumph this book manifests. The acknowledgements page is an understatement to the paeans of praise this book and its creators deserve. Thanks to all who worked on this magnificent gift to art lovers.
This book is the catalog for a special exhibit in Washington DC commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Japanese gift of cherry trees that are planted around the tidal basin in the city. The exhibit was only open for one month and displayed 33 scrolls painted by the buddist monk Ito Jakuchu. The scrolls were absolutely stunning and are a true Japanese national treasure. They have never been exhibited outside of Japan and may never be again. This book is an about as good a documentation of these scrolls as one could hope for. There is a fold-out showing all of the scrolls compared in a small size. Then each scroll has a full page illustration followed by several pages of details and descriptive text. This is one of the best exhibit catalogs I have seen for any show. Highly recommended!
I was fortunate to see the originals at the National Gallery of Art. The reproductions in this book are well done -- nothing is like the real thing but this book is much better than usual. The closeup views are very helpful for understanding the work of the artist.
I agree with everything other reviewers have said with respect to content in general. But, if you have seen the original paintings, you will be sorely disappointed by the pictures as they look dull and lack any trace of the luster of the original paintings.