Poetic Imagination in Japanese Art: Selections from the Collection of Mary and Cheney Cowles

Poetic Imagination in Japanese Art: Selections from the Collection of Mary and Cheney Cowles

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Assembled over the last four decades and still growing, the Mary and Cheney Cowles collection of Japanese art is one of the finest in private hands in North America. What began for Cheney Cowles as an almost casual interest in collecting early Imari ware evolved, over time, into a passion for Japanese paintings and calligraphy. Cowles's tastes are broad and eclectic, embracing a dazzling diversity of styles and techniques. This volume focuses on what the authors found to be a compelling, recurring thread within that variety: a predilection for visual poetry. Occasionally, the text or image will illustrate or allude to a specific verse; more often, the relationship to poetry is more intuitive and rooted in a long-standing pictorial tradition. From the meditative serenity of Soei's White Herons and Reeds (early sixteenth century) to the heartwarming lyricism of Yosa Buson's Visiting a Friend in Plum Valley (1781) or the frenzied energy of Tomioka Tessai's Admiring the Moon from a Grotto (1916), the paintings illustrated in this volume suggest, rather than specify. Like the resonant verses in classical Chinese or Japanese, rich with nuanced layers of signification, the pictorial images invite the viewer's full attention and participation to complete their meaning.