Weight in the form of a skull surmounted by a snake, early to mid 19th century, ivory, carnelian. Collection of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Gift of David Young.

Edo: Arts of Japan’s Last Shogun Age (1603-1868)


June 22 to September 16, 2012
Opening Reception: Friday, June 22 at 8 p.m.
Talk/Tour: Sunday, June 24 at 1 p.m. with curator Barry Till

Edo refers to two things: it is the old name for the city of Tokyo, which, starting in 1615, under the rule of military leader or shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, transformed from a village into one of the world’s largest, most populous capitals—often called “the Venice of the East.” It is also the name for the historic period from 1603 until 1868, when Japan was ruled by shoguns from the Tokugawa family. The exhibition, Edo: Arts of Japan’s Last Shogun Age, explores the vast and unique influence this epoch had on the arts and culture of Japan. Edo: Arts of Japan’s Last Shogun Age (1603 –1868) is the most comprehensive exhibition of historical Japanese art ever displayed in Saskatoon, offering visitors an incredible opportunity to learn about the epoch and marvel at its magnificent cultural productions.

The exhibition includes paintings, prints, ceramics, lacquerwares, metalwares, textiles and clothing accessories, religious art, and samurai paraphernalia, including suits of armor. In particular, the prints known as ukiyo-e reveal the life and customs of an era, offering unrivalled material for the study of daily life across the length and breadth of Edo-period Japan. These remarkable prints show the different classes of people, their occupations, the costumes they wore, the manner in which ladies dressed their hair, the armor and weapons of their warriors, their musical instruments, how they danced and entertained themselves, their festivals, the strangers who came from foreign lands to trade with them, the layouts and architecture of their towns and cities, domestic scenes, how they rode their magnificent horses and travelled through Japan, and their household utensils. The prints also reveal aspects of Edo religion, folklore, and historical scenes. Prints were appreciated by the commoners of the Edo period, while fine paintings, ceramics and lacquerwares reveal the tastes of the upper classes.

A highlight of Edo: Arts of Japan’s Last Shogun Age is an early, very large 17th-century screen from the Shogun’s Nijo castle in Kyoto. The screen once belonged to the architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Edo: Arts of Japan’s Last Shogun Age is curated by Barry Till, Curator of Asian Art at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, which houses one of the finest Japanese art collections in North America. Its tour is supported by the Museums Assistance Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage. The exhibition is accompanied by a handsome, full-colour catalogue, with essays by Barry Till.

Organized and circulated by the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria with assistance from the Canadian Department of Heritage, Museums Assistance Program.