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Hood Museum at Dartmouth showcases Japanese prints

A private collection of Japanese woodblock prints that showcases two centuries of art will be presented at the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College in Hanover through Sunday, July 28.

"The Women of Shin Hanga: The Judith and Joseph Barker Collection of Japanese Prints" includes nearly 100 examples from the Barkers' extensive collection, which focuses on Japanese print designers' focus on female subjects.

The exhibition primarily will focus on depictions of women that were created by the leading artists of the shin hanga (new print) movement of the early 20th century, a time when rapid modernization and increased contact with the West gave rise to new modes of artistic expression and female representation.

Sparking an Interest

The Barker's interest in shin hanga prints was inspired in part by Joseph's early discovery of Japanese printmaking traditions as a Dartmouth undergraduate, and the Barkers' promised gift of the works to the Hood advances a long tradition of alumni contributions to the museum's Japanese art collection.

"... Hood Museum will make an ideal home for our treasured collection of Japanese prints," said Joseph Barker, a member of the Dartmouth Class of 1966. "Judy and I hope that visitors to the Hood will discover in these works the same meticulous artistry and breathtaking beauty that has captivated us for so many years."

Whether they feature conservatively dressed women in traditional costumes or geisha, "modern girls" or nudes, the prints in the exhibition demonstrate the importance of both traditional and innovative production methods and subjects to shin hanga depictions of women. Artists focused their attention anew on hairstyles, cosmetics, clothing, and fashion accessories, the most recognizable markers of contemporary women. Woodblock carvers and printers used modern techniques to create, for example, intricately carved coiffures that reveal hundreds of individual strands of hair, and the subtle application of color to convey flesh tones and cosmetics including lip color and eye shadow. As a final touch, ground mica mixed with pigment highlights the metallic properties of the jewelry, hair ornaments, and mirrors.

The pristine quality of the works on view in The Women of Shin Hanga at the Hood Museum of Art offers a rare opportunity to experience these technological marvels within the context of a country in the throes of economic, industrial, and social modernization.

Adding to the Collection

The promised gift of the prints to the Hood represents the largest contribution to the museum's Japanese art holdings, curators said.

"The exceptional caliber of the Judith and Joseph Barker collection affords a unique opportunity to trace artists' engagement with female subjects across a pivotal period in the history of Japanese printmaking," said Michael Taylor, director of the Hood Museum.

The 66 shin hanga prints that form the core of the exhibit encompass a range of female archetypes from early-20th-century Japanese society, ranging from geisha associated with traditional practices to so-called "modern girls" characterized by their Westernized appearance and liberated lifestyle.

Also included are 24 prints published between 1767 and 1897. They provide a contextual overview of female representations in Japanese printmaking prior to the emergence of shin hanga.

The exhibit is curated by Allen Hockley, associate professor of art history at Dartmouth.


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