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The Artist’s Touch, The Craftsman’s Hand: Three Centuries of Japanese Prints from the Portland Art Museum

Japanese prints have been integral to the identity of the Portland Art Museum since 1932, when the Museum was given 750 traditional woodblock prints from the collection of Mary Andrews Ladd. Since then, the Museum’s holdings have grown to more than 2,500 works and span from the late seventeenth century to the present day.

'The Artist’s Touch, The Craftsman’s Hand: Three Centuries of Japanese Prints from the Portland Art Museum' is published on the occasion of an exhibition of the same name, held at the Portland Art Museum from October 8, 2011 through January 22, 2012. The first major publication to draw exclusively from this remarkable public resource, 'The Artist’s Touch, The Craftsman’s Hand' presents a selection of more than 250 of the most historically important and visually compelling Japanese prints in the collection. Nearly 100 of these works are extremely rare in North American collections, and almost all of them appear here in an English-language publication for the first time. Noteworthy areas of emphasis include early actor prints, dating back to the first decade of the eighteenth century; works by Suzuki Harunobu, the master associated with the origins of full-color printing in 1765; the deluxe, privately-printed surimono of the early nineteenth century; painterly landscapes of the early twentieth century, including a series that documents the Great Kantô Earthquake of 1923; and contemporary prints, ranging from Op Art and Abstract Expressionism to lyrical evocations of an imagined past.

This volume is a collaboration by five scholars in the field of Japanese art and cultural history. Donald Jenkins, an authority on Japanese prints, has contributed an overview of the works in the exhibition as well as a focused article on Harunobu. Laurence Kominz, a specialist in traditional Japanese drama, writes about prints of kabuki actors and their enthusiastic fans. John T. Carpenter, an expert in Japanese calligraphy, poetry, and prints, elucidated the cultural meanings in still-life surimono. Research Associate Lynn Katsumoto introduces the reader to the donor of the founding collection, Mary Andrews Ladd. The essays are followed by a complete catalogue of the exhibitions 257 works, fully illustrated in color with extended commentary by exhibition curator Maribeth Graybill, The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Asian Art, and Lynn Katsumoto. Also included are a chronology, glossary, bibliography, and a Japanese-language list of works. Graybill served as editor for the entire volume.