Japanese Aesthetics

Request Program

Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s seminal text, In Praise of Shadows (1933), discusses Eastern, specifically Japanese, ideals of beauty. Contrary to the Western framework of thinking, Japanese aesthetics favors the in-between, typically discarded or overlooked places of beauty: the grey shadows, the tea ceremony, and even a toilet seat. By looking at examples of Japanese fine and decorative arts, we will discuss Tanizaki’s major ideas concerning Eastern Aesthetics and then apply his understanding to the works in the VMFA permanent collection.