With the establishment of Edo (modern-day Tokyo) as the major political and commercial center of Japan in the 17th century, a new genre of painting—ukiyo-e—developed (“ukiyo” meaning “floating world” and “e” meaning “painting”). Masters of ukiyo-e painting explored the daily activities of the city’s inhabitants and detailed the stylish preoccupations of the “two places of iniquity”—the world of the theaters and the brothels. While many of these artists are well known in the West for their woodblock prints, it was in the medium of painting that they actually received their major commissions.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is home to the finest collection of ukiyo-e painting in the world. Drama and Desire: Japanese Paintings from the Floating World, 1690–1850 is the first exhibition to highlight this collection. Featuring over 80 works by the major artists active in the Edo region from the 17th through the 19th centuries, the show will explore several themes, including the creation of the iconography of courtesan and actor imagery, and will provide an unparalleled overview of the development of the ukiyo-e painting genre.
Prior to its presentation at the Kimbell, Drama and Desire: Japanese Paintings from the Floating World, 1690–1850 will be seen at the Kobe City Museum, Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Edo-Tokyo Museum, all in Japan, and following its presentation in Fort Worth it will travel to the Royal Ontario Museum, Canada, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. It was made possible by Fidelity Investments through the Fidelity Foundation.