The Rinpa Aesthetic in Japanese Art

Third Thursday Lecture - Sainsbury Institute

Thursday 16 August, 2012
6:00pm BST

Norwich Cathedral Hostry (Weston Room), Norwich NR1 4DH


John T. Carpenter (Curator of Japanese Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Senior Advisor, Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures)

About the Lecture

The distinctive style of Japanese art known as Rinpa, or “the school of Kōrin,” embraces bold, graphic renderings of natural motifs – usually flora and fauna with auspicious or literary symbolism – or formalized renderings of fictional characters, famous poets, and sages. A modern term for an aesthetic that arose in Japan in the early 1600s and flourished until modern times, Rinpa is celebrated for its use of lavish pigments, frequent references to traditional court literature and poetry, and fascinating pictorial works that combine painting and eloquent experimentation in calligraphy. This lecture also explores how artists – either by adding their own inscriptions or collaborating with famous calligraphers – conceived eye-catching compositions that cleverly integrated text and image. The works introduced are part of an exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art that traces the development of the Rinpa aesthetic, highlighting the school’s most prominent proponents and illustrating how Rinpa techniques were transmitted to other media such as lacquerware, ceramics, and textiles.

About the Speaker

John T. Carpenter was recently appointed Curator of Japanese Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. From 1999 to 2009 he taught the history of Japanese art at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and served as Head of the London Office of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures. He has also taught courses at the University of Heidelberg, and from 2009 to 2011 he was Visiting Professor in the Department of Cultural Resource Studies at the University of Tokyo. He has published widely on Japanese art, especially in the areas of calligraphy, painting, and woodblock prints. In 2006, he published Imperial Calligraphy of Premodern Japan: Scribal Conventions for Poems and Letters from the Palace, focusing on surviving examples of calligraphy by Japanese emperors of the medieval period. He was editor of Hokusai and His Age: Ukiyo-e Painting, Printmaking and Book Illustration in Late Edo Japan (2005) and Reading Surimono: The Interplay of Text and Image in Japanese Prints (2008).

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