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East Asian Art

Representing more than 4,500 years of visual history, VMFA’s East Asian collection features paintings, prints, sculptures, textiles, ceramics, metalwork, objects in lacquer and jade, and other art forms from China, Japan, and Korea. Collection themes include the Bronze Age, the spread of Buddhism, cross-cultural influences, ceramic development and trade, poetry and calligraphy, scholars’ implements, tea-ceremony vessels, and incense art.

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Chinese Art

The core of VMFA’s Chinese art collection features ritual bronzes and jades from the Shang through Zhou dynasties, as well as Buddhist sculpture dating from the 6th through 11th centuries. Paintings include portraiture, landscape, and genre scenes, along with textiles and costumes, such as embroidered hangings and imperial robes from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Examples of ceramics, lacquers, furniture, and other decorative objects reveal masterful craftsmanship. Chinese holdings also include an acquisition of more than three hundred scrolls of calligraphy and painting dating from the 18th through 19th centuries.

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Japanese Art

VMFA’s Japanese collection developed in the 1960s and ranges from Buddhist sculptures and ritual objects to religious and genre paintings and screens, dating from the Heian, Kamakura, and Edo periods. Many works were acquired directly from Japan, often from the notable dealer Yamanaka & Company. The collection’s strengths include monumental temple sculptures, religious portraiture and ritual objects, landscape and genre paintings, and Zen Buddhist calligraphy. The collection is also enhanced by large holdings of woodblock prints, including traditional ukiyo-e and shin-hanga prints, which date from the 18th through 20th centuries.

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Korean Art

VMFA’s growing collection of Korean art contains fine examples of ceramics, metalwork, lacquerware, and painting that span more than 1,500 years. The collection of ceramics, ranging from earthenware to celadon, and white porcelain with underglaze cobalt decoration, began to develop in the 1970s. Acquisitions from two collections introduced one hundred twenty works into the museum’s Korean collection, comprised of works of ceramics, metalwork, paintings, and roof tiles, dating from the Three Kingdoms and Unified Silla periods through the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties. Other holdings include traditional and contemporary paintings, furniture, and textiles.

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A virtual tour of the Korean Art Collection at VMFA

Join us on this virtual tour to explore themes, symbolism, and techniques through closely looking at ten highlights including paintings, calligraphy, and decorative arts on view in the museum’s Korean gallery. The tour was narrated by curatorial assistant William Neer, and produced by Travis Fullerton, Director of Imaging Resources, VMFA, in 2021.

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Producing the Picturesque: Watercolors and Collaborative Prints by Kawase Hasui

Kawase Hasui (1883–1957) was the most significant Japanese woodblock artist of the 20th century, designing around six hundred print compositions over the course of his career. Hasui’s print designs display nostalgia for traditional Japanese culture and scenery in the midst of the country’s rapid modernization. He began creating landscape compositions for the print publisher Watanabe Shōzaburō in 1918, and together the pair embarked on an artistic partnership that would span more than 40 years. In the making of shin-hanga (new prints), which was a collaboration of artist, block carver, printer, and publisher, this partnership between Hasui and Watanabe culminated in picturesque representations of Japanese landscapes that were successfully circulated locally and abroad. 

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Ura Heights, 1950, Kawase Hasui (Japanese, 1883–1957), watercolor; ink and color on paper. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, René and Carolyn Balcer Collection, 2017.594