PRESS RELEASE: Princeton University Art Museum Adds Important Japanese Works from Renowned Gitter-Yellen Collection

Acquisitions will be transformative for both exhibition and teaching

PRINCETON, NJ – Sixteen major works of Japanese art from the distinguished Gitter-Yellen Collection, also known as the Manyo’an Collection of Art, of Dr. Kurt A. Gitter and Alice Yelen Gitter were recently added to the collection of the Princeton University Art Museum. Dating from the Edo period (1615-1868) and including works by important artists representing the categories of Literati, Zen, Rinpa, and Individualist painting, these outstanding works add strength to strength, further enhancing the Museum’s rich collection of Asian art for exhibition, teaching, and research.

“These superb paintings build on what is one of our strategic collecting priorities, and come from one of the most important private collections of Japanese art,” said James Steward, Nancy A. Nasher–David J. Haemisegger, Class of 1976, Director. “We are honored to have the support of Kurt and Alice in enriching the experience both of Princeton students and of all visitors to our museum.”

Dr. Gitter began collecting art in the 1960s while working as a flight surgeon in the U.S. Air Force on the island of Kyushu, Japan. The collection has grown significantly since then, and is primarily located in New Orleans at the Gitter-Yelen Art Study Center, which is dedicated to the research and study of Japanese art and American self-taught art.

The impetus for bringing these works to Princeton grew from the object-based teaching of Andrew Watsky, professor of Japanese Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. On two occasions, Professor Watsky and curators of Asian art from the Princeton University Art Museum, Cary Liu and Zoe Kwok, brought art history graduate students to New Orleans to engage with works in the Gitter-Yelen Collection in intensive, multiday seminars. Dr. Gitter was an active participant in these seminars and added significantly to the discussions. The addition of the works from the Gitter-Yelen Collection enhance the Museum’s commitment to fostering in-depth, object-based teaching and research using original works of art.

“I am thrilled that Princeton students will now be able to study, and be inspired by, these important pieces from the Gitter-Yelen Collection,” said Professor Watsky. “Nothing replaces the experience of encountering works of art face-to-face, and with these additions, students will engage areas of Japanese art that Princeton previously lacked.”

Highlights among the acquired works include three Literati paintings by Ike no Taiga (1723-1776), a preeminent painter and calligrapher of the 18th century, and will serve as a foundation for the Museum’s collection of Edo period painting. Taiga’s Calligraphy and Bamboo screen was exhibited in the landmark Taiga exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2007, and will be the Museum’s first example of large-character calligraphy by the artist. Yosa Buson (1716-1784), another renowned Literati painter and famed poet of the 18th century, was formerly not represented in the Museum’s holdings. The addition of three of his works—One Hundred Old Men, Four Rocks, and Bashō’s Narrow Road to the Deep North—will open significant new avenues for future teaching and research. The addition of Edo-period Zen paintings (zenga), especially works by Hakuin Ekaku (1686-1768), will add new material for the teaching and study of Zen Buddhist art and religion during the 18th century. A subtle diptych by Sakai Hōitsu (1761-1828) will be the best example in the Museum’s collection of Rinpa painting, a style in which artists often turned away from Chinese painting models and instead made innovations based on native Japanese artistic traditions. Finally, works by three painters known for developing their own idiosyncratic styles—Ito Jakachū (1716-1800), Nagasawa Rosetsu (1754-1799), and Soga Shōhaku (1730-1781)—will also enter the Asian collection.

A number of these works, together with additional loans from the Gitter-Yelen Collection, will join seminal works from the Museum’s collection in the upcoming exhibition Painting Place in Japan, which will be on view at the Princeton University Art Museum from October 20, 2018 through February 24, 2019. The representation of place has been a dominant subject of Japanese painting throughout history. Sometimes these images evoked the topography of an actual location, but often the place depicted was imagined or based primarily on pictorial precedent. For painters, pictures of place were a means of exploring brushwork and form, as well as evoking poetry, paradise, distant China, sacred sites, and the familiar or remote famous places of Japan.

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About the Princeton University Art Museum

With a collecting history that extends back to the 1750s, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the leading university art museums in the country, with collections that have grown to include over 100,000 works of art ranging from ancient to contemporary art and spanning the globe.

Committed to advancing Princeton’s teaching and research missions, the Art Museum also serves as a gateway to the University for visitors from around the world. Intimate in scale yet expansive in scope, the Museum offers a respite from the rush of daily life, a revitalizing experience of extraordinary works of art and an opportunity to delve deeply into the study of art and culture.

The Princeton University Art Museum is located at the heart of the Princeton campus, a short walk from the shops and restaurants of Nassau Street. Admission is free. Museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday 12 to 5 p.m. The Museum is closed Mondays and major holidays.


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