Dublin’s renowned Chester Beatty museum is opening a new exhibition this Friday, May 28, dedicated to its delicate collection of Japanese woodblock prints.
Edo in Colour: Prints from Japan’s Metropolis explores how woodblock prints shaped fashion, fame and identity in the city now known as Tokyo. From pictures of actors and beauties to masterpieces by Hokusai and Hiroshige, these prints were once as affordable as they are aesthetically refined—a driving force within the popular culture of this vibrant metropolis.
Featuring more than one hundred prints and printed books from Japan’s Edo period (c. 1603–1868), the exhibition will be shown in two parts with more to explore online and in the accompanying catalogue. A full programme of lectures, talks and artist-led activities is planned and a selection of Edo-themed prints, stationery and face masks are available onsite or online from the museum’s Gift Shop.
The Chester Beatty’s collections of Japanese art are internationally renowned. Alfred Chester Beatty (1875–1968) had a long interest in the arts of Japan, but only began collecting Japanese prints in earnest after his move to Dublin. Guided by print specialist Jack Hillier (1912–1995), this exceptional collection which today encompasses more than 850 single sheet prints and 100 printed books was brought together between 1954 and 1963. As part of the project, the commercially-published Japanese prints within the collection (some 450 works) have been fully digitised and made available online.
The exhibition is free to visit and runs from 28 May-5 December 2021.
Presented with the support of the Japan Foundation and Toshiba International Foundation.
The Rest of the Collection
The rest of the museum – spread over two floors of a building at the back of Dublin Castle – is equally beautiful.
On the first floor, the Artistic Traditions Gallery has lots of curios and objects covering the art of Mogul India, Persia, the Ottoman Empire, Japan and China – including a stunning collection of Chinese jade books.
On the second floor, the Sacred Traditions Gallery has an important collection of religious texts and books covering the world’s major religions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism. It also includes one of the finest collections of Qur’ans found outside the Islamic world, ancient Egyptian papyri and the second-oldest biblical fragment ever found – only the Dead Sea Scrolls are older. It’s very small, but all the more interesting for it.
There’s a lovely Japanese rooftop garden and a fine cafe on the ground floor, as well as an excellent gift shop if you’re looking for that special memento of a Dublin visit.