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Michener Art Museum celebrates the art of printmaking


“Mid-Century to Manga: The Modern Japanese Print in America,” on view now at the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, traces the story of the modern sosaku-hanga “or creative prints” movement and other creative collectibles across the past century, from Japan to the United States and beyond.

“We are very excited to be displaying works from our collection which are so rarely shared with the public,” said Director of Exhibitions Joshua Lessard.

“This show highlights many incredible and exciting stories of cultural exchange and continuity, from the early Showa Era through to contemporary artists making prints today.”

The exhibition features 75 prints on paper, over two dozen of which have never been on display at the Michener Art Museum before, such as Kiyoshi Saito’s “Winter in Aizu” series, birthplace of the printmaker.

Although better known as a novelist, Michener was an ardent collector and promoter of Japanese modern prints. In 1959, he organized a competition to support Japanese printmakers, many of whom were his friends and acquaintances. Ten winners would receive a monetary prize and have their original prints included as part of a limited-edition book.

The central feature of the present exhibition is the display of three original copies of James Michener’s 1962 book, “The Modern Japanese Print: An Appreciation.” The very large folio – approximately two feet by three feet wide when opened – contains signed original woodblock prints by modern Japanese printmakers.

While his 1954 book, “The Floating World,” describes the history of the genre from the seventh to the 19th century, Michener also came to appreciate the vitality and creativity of 20th century printmakers.

In the postwar period, sosoku hanga artists participated in venues around the world, including Cincinnati, Sao Paulo, Venice, Krakow and Paris, among many others. At the first Sao Paulo, Biennale in 1951, printmakers won prizes, while Japanese painters received none. This event raised the status of printmaking in Japan.

Contemporary printmakers work in a variety of media and subjects today. Some continue to use woodblock while others turn to other printing techniques, as well as mixed media.

Hashimoto’s “Nishikori Castle” stunning and colorful woodblock print on paper and the grouping of Kiyoshi Sanio’s equally stunning black and white woodblock print on paper are just a few that will pop out when visiting the collection, which runs through July 30.

For this project, the Michener Art Museum has engaged regional partners at the University of Pennsylvania to provide specific content-area expertise with curation by the History of Art Department Chair, Julie Nelson Davis, and support from curatorial fellows Marina De Melo Do Nascimento, Maria Puzyreva and Nicholas M Purgett.

To engage audiences of all ages, the museum offers a range of programs, including a manga workshop for teens, an international Family Day celebration, floral design and Japanese printmaking workshops. Visit online for information.

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