“Greetings to everyone. I will arrive soon…” – the woman (“onna” in Japanese) in Kitagawa Utamaro’s woodcut is captured at the moment when she’s writing those words. The exhibition ONNA – Beauty, Strength, Ecstasy. Japanese Woodcuts and Paintings and from the Collection of the National Museum in Krakow celebrates female beauty as depicted by Japanese masters.
Portraits of women are one of the most important themes in Japanese art, especially popular as ukiyo-e woodcuts – one of the pillars of the culture and customs of the Edo period (1603-1868). At the time, brothels were legal in Japan and courtesans were icons of beauty and objects of desire. Portraits became a popular artform, capturing upper class ladies, poets and girls working at tearooms, as well as actors of the kabuki theatre portraying female roles.
The Main Building of the National Museum in Krakow presents around 120 portraits, mainly from the collection donated by Feliks Jasieński in 1920; authors include the godfather of colour woodcut Suzuki Harunobu, creator of refined compositions Torii Kiyonaga, and populariser of the acclaimed Utagawa school Master Toyokuni. We will also see works by Kitagawa Utamaro representing the golden period of ukiyo-e woodcuts and masters such as Utagawa Kuniyoshi and Katsushika Hokusai. The exhibition also features clothing and everyday objects. (dd)