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TO MARCH 8

“Twelve Centuries of Japanese Art From the Imperial Collections”

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Japaneseness is the Japanese obsession, but this exhibit of works from 12 centuries of the country’s art reminds us how short Japan’s period of cultural isolation was. The early works emulate Chinese models, while the later ones are beholden to the West: Tsuchida Bakusen’s 1929 Poppies looks like art nouveau (pictured), and Sakuma Bungo’s 1890 oil painting Wake no Kiyomaro Imparting Doctrine to the Empress Regnant aspires to the density and vividness of European classical painting. That’s not to say that the cross-pollination didn’t yield remarkable work: Yamaguchi Hoshun’s 1926 The Nachi Shrine of Kumano is utterly Japanese in form and content yet has a remarkable (and untraditional) intensity of color. The earlier works showcase more “Japanese” virtues: fluid line, elegant composition, luminous but understated colors, meticulous renderings of nature. This is the first major overseas exhibit of works from Japan’s Imperial Collections, featuring 56 paintings and 20 works of calligraphy, including 15 pieces from the personal collection of Emperor Akihito. All 76 pieces will never be on display at any one time: Because of the delicacy of many of the works on paper, they will be alternated during the show’s run. At the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 1050 Independence Ave. SW. FREE. (202) 357-3200. (Mark Jenkins)