Teaching Inspires Major Acquisition

During the summers of 2013 and 2016, Princeton University art history graduate students had the opportunity to travel to New Orleans to experience in person the distinguished Gitter-Yelen Collection of Japanese art, also known as the Manyo’an Collection of Art, assembled by Dr. Kurt A. Gitter and Alice Yelen Gitter.

Soga Shohaku (Japanese, 1730–1781), Edo period, 1615–1867, Kanzan and Jittoku. Hanging scroll; ink on paper, 30.7 x 68.2 cm. Museum acquisition from the Gitter-Yelen Collection The trips grew out of the object-based teaching of Andrew Watsky, professor of Japanese art at Princeton. On both occasions, Professor Watsky and the Museum’s curators of Asian art, Cary Liu and Zoe Kwok, accompanied the graduate students to New Orleans to engage directly with works in the Gitter-Yelen Collection in intensive, multiday seminars. Dr. Gitter was an active participant in these seminars and added significantly to the discussions.

Following on the first visit in 2013, the idea was formed to bring works from the Gitter-Yelen Collection to Princeton, and a group of major works of Japanese art has recently entered the Museum’s collections. In addition to a tea jar dating from the Muromachi period (1333–1568), fifteen Edo-period (1615–1868) paintings by important artists representing the categories of Individualist, Literati, Rinpa, and Zen painting will enrich the Museum’s holdings and further enhance the Museum’s commitment to fostering in-depth teaching and research using original works of art.

Highlights among the acquisitions include works by three painters famed for developing idiosyncratic stylesIto Jakachū (1716–1800), Nagasawa Rosetsu (1754–1799), and Soga Shōhaku (1730–1781). Also entering the collections are three paintings and calligraphy by Ike no Taiga (1723–1776), a preeminent Literati artist of the eighteenth century. Yosa Buson (1716–1784), another renowned eighteenth-century Literati painter and poet, was formerly not represented in the Museum’s holdings. The addition of three of his works will open significant new avenues for future teaching and research. A subtle diptych by Sakai Hōitsu (1761–1828) will be the best example in the Museum’s collections of Rinpa painting, an innovative style based on native Japanese artistic traditions. Finally, the addition of Edo-period Zen paintings (zenga), especially works by the monk Hakuin Ekaku (1686–1768), will add new material for the teaching and study of Zen Buddhist art and religion.

Many of these new works will be on display in the galleries of Asian art starting September 15, 2018. Others, together with additional loans from the Gitter-Yelen Collection, will join works from the Museum’s collections in the upcoming exhibition Picturing Place in Japan, on view from October 20, 2018, through February 24, 2019.

Cary Y. Liu
Nancy and Peter Lee Curator of Asian Art