Honoring an Expert

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Kamisaka Sekka (Japan, 1866–1942), Harudenka (Farm Village in Spring), from Momoyogusa (A World of Things), Volume 3, about 1909–1910, ink and color on paper; Museum purchase 1998.2.2
Kamisaka Sekka (Japan, 1866–1942), Harudenka (Farm Village in Spring), from Momoyogusa (A World of Things), Volume 3, about 1909–1910, ink and color on paper; Museum purchase 1998.2.2

The BMA recently acquired five rare original drawings attributed to the Japanese painter and print designer Kamisaka Sekka (1866–1942), which were purchased by the Museum to honor Dr. Donald A. Wood, Senior Curator and The Virginia and William M. Spencer Curator of Asian Art, who is widely considered one of the leading authorities on the artist. In 2003, in conjunction with the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan, Wood curated and organized the groundbreaking exhibition Kamisaka Sekka: Rimpa Master—Pioneer of Modern Design, the first exhibition to focus on the complete output of this important artist. The exhibition catalogue, co-edited by Dr. Wood, is still considered the standard reference on Sekka.

Often described as a “renaissance man,” Kamisaka Sekka was chiefly known as a painter and designer of prints, though he also created designs for lacquer, furniture, textiles, and ceramics, and worked as an interior designer, a landscape architect, an art critic, and a teacher. Sekka’s innovative work is prized for its unique combination of traditional techniques and subject matter with modern design sensibilities and a vivid color palette. Thanks to Dr. Wood’s diligent stewardship, the BMA can boast nearly 100 examples of Sekka’s work, comprising paintings, prints, woodblock-printed books, lacquerware, textiles and these drawings, the first by the artist to enter the collection.

The drawings are very close in style to the prints in Sekka’s masterpiece Momoyogusa (A World of Things), a three-volume set of prints that was published in Kyoto between 1909 and 1910. The BMA owns a set of these prints that are in excellent condition, and drawings survive for two of these volumes. While these five drawings do not match any of the prints from the set, it is possible that they could be drawings for the Momoyogusa that were not included in the final printing.