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Asian Art


Kikugawa Eizan | Japan 1787–1867 | (Beauty on parade)c.1810 | Colour woodblock print on paper | 35.5 x 23.5cm | Purchased 1992. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery


Bizen Kilns | Japan | Narrow necked jar with lugs (tsubo) c.1574–1602 (Azuchi–Momoyama period) | Stoneware, coil built with natural ash glaze | 30.9 x 35cm (diam.) | Purchased 1994 with funds from Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery


Kikugawa Eizan
Japan 1787–1867
(Beauty on parade) c.1810
Colour woodblock print on paper
35.5 x 23.5cm
Purchased 1992. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery


Bizen Kilns
Narrow necked jar with lugs (tsubo) c.1574–1602 (Azuchi–Momoyama period)
Stoneware, coil built with natural ash glaze
30.9 x 35cm (diam.)
Purchased 1994 with funds from Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation
Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
Banner image:
Unkoku Tōeki  Japan 1591–1644 | Pair of six-panel screens (Landscapes with Li Bai and Lin Bu) (detail) c.1610–44 (early Edo period) | Ink, colours and gold wash on paper on six-panel wooden framed screens (byōbu), edged with woven silk and covered verso in paper relief printed in black | Four centre panels: 169 x 62.3cm (each screen); two outer panels: 169 x 64cm (each screen); 169 x 377.2cm (overall) | Gift of James Fairfax, AO, through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 1992 | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Asian Art

The Gallery’s holdings of historical Asian art highlight significant artistic developments across the region and provides opportunities to explore diverse media, philosophies and techniques through painting, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, metalware, lacquerware, photography and furniture. The collection also draws attention to the importance of cultural exchange in the continuing development of Asia’s aesthetic traditions.

Asia’s ceramic traditions are among the world’s earliest and most influential. Forming an introduction to these is a group of Neolithic jars from Japan’s Jōmon (3000–2000BCE) and Yayoi (400–300BCE) cultures. A group of two kuan (storage jars) and one amphora from China’s Neolithic Yangshao culture (3500–3000BCE) complement this collection, allowing for dialogue regarding the development of ceramics in Asia. Broader holdings of Chinese ceramics mark important artistic periods and styles, including Tang dynasty (618–907) burial ware, celadon from the Yuan (1279–1368) and Ming (1368–1644) dynasties, blue and white wares from the Kangxi period (1662–1722) and a selection of porcelain including imperial works from the Qing dynasty (1644–1912).

Japanese ceramics are one of the Asian art collection's strengths. A group of tsubo (lidless jars) from Japan’s Six Old Kilns (the Tokoname, Seto, Shigaraki, Tamba, Bizen and Echizen kilns), dating from the Muromachi (1333–1573) and Azuchi–Momoyama (1573–1603) periods form a small but significant focus. These represent some of the formative ceramic traditions in Japan as well as engaging with the Japanese tea ceremony and Zen aesthetic ideals. Works by Zen practitioners, such as ceramics by the Buddhist nun Otagaki Rengetsu (1791–1875) and calligraphy and ink paintings on scrolls by Gempo Yamamoto (1866–1961), Shoun (Gempo Sohan) (1848–1922) and Deiryr (Sojun Kanshu) (1895–1954) further illustrate the importance of religious belief in Japanese artistic tradition. A small collection of Imari porcelain and Satsuma ware conveys the importance of export ware and exchange with Europe in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Philosophy and poetry have played decisive roles in the development of many Asian artistic traditions, and in particular, those of Chinese and Japanese painting. A superb pair of Japanese screens attributed to the Hasegawa School, active in the Edo period (1600–1868), and a pair by Tosa Mitsuatsu (active 1734–64) depicting scenes from the influential literary text Genji Monogatari(Tale of Genji) exhibit the significance of philosophical and poetic ideals. Further examples of Japanese screens represent some of the major painting schools and the influence of neighbouring artistic traditions, as in Kano Yasunobu’s (1613–85) Birds and flowers of the four seasons and the dramatic ink landscapes featuring the Chinese poet–scholars Li Bai and Lin Bu by Unkoku Toeki (1591–1644).

The collection has extensive holdings of Japanese prints, in particular the popular form known as Ukiyo-e, or ‘pictures of the floating world’, which developed during the late seventeenth-century Edo period. The Gallery holds iconic works by leading exponents of this form, such as Ichiryusai Hiroshige (1797–1858), that demonstrate the skilful layering of introduced European methods of representation — such as perspective — with traditional visual language, including the expressive use of line. Other works feature the popular themes of beautiful women (Bijinga) and the theatre by early masters such as Kitagawa Utamaro (1753–1806) and a significant collection of the later masters Toyohara Chikanobu (1838–1912), Taiso Yoshitoshi (1839–1892) and the Utagawa school. A more recent history of printmaking in Japan is told through examples of shin­ hanga (new prints) and sosaku hanga (creative prints) from of the 1930s to the 1950s, as well as diverse styles by printmakers from the second half of the twentieth century.

The Gallery has recently broadened its focus to include works from South and Southeast Asia. Recent acquisitions have included Orissan and Later Chola period (c.860–1279CE) bronze sculpture, and a major Nepalese nineteenth century tantric painting, demonstrating the central role of religious art in the region. Indian miniature paintings convey the splendour of Mughal and Rajput courts in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as contextualising to the Gallery’s strong holdings of contemporary miniature painting. Other recent acquisitions include intricate weaponry from Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as textiles from Indonesia and Cambodia.

Fascinating collections of historic photography trace the emergence of new ways of viewing and documenting Asian societies and cultures. These include albums of images of India and the Himalayas collected by a travelling English theatre company in 1899–1900; works by some of the first photographers to document Japan in the late 1800s; delicate Japanese ambrotypes; and colonial-era images of India, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.

These works help further the Gallery’s commitment to developing a small and carefully directed collection of historical Asian art that provides audiences with an insight to the richness, diversity and sophistication of the cultural traditions of Asia. Further more, they contribute significantly to the interpretation and appreciation of the Gallery’s landmark contemporary Asian collection, a consideration that has been an underlying principle in shaping the future direction of the Gallery’s historical Asian holdings.

The images on this web page are indicative of works that are part of the Collection. Visitors are advised to contact the Gallery in advance of a visit to find out if a particular work is on display. For exhibition information on Collection works on display, please visit Current Collection Displays

Selected Collection Highlights

Yangshao culture Storage jars (kuan) Neolithic period, Majiayao phase (3500-3000 BCE) and Banshan phase (3000-2500 BCE)

Jōmon culture ‘Deep pot’ Middle Jōmon period 3000-2000BCE

Yayoi culture ‘Jar’ 400BCE–300BCE (Yayoi period)

Unknown Horse 618-907 (Tang dynasty)

Unknown Krishna the jubilant butter thief 13th century (late Chola period)

Unknown Ewer (yutō) 15th-16th century (Muromachi period)

Unknown Untitled (Chauri Bearers) 16th Century

Bizen Kilns Narrow necked jar with lugs (tsubo) c.1574-1602 (Azuchi-Momoyama Period)

Kanō Yasunobu Pair of six fold screens: Birds and flowers of the four seasons 17th century (Edo period)

Unkoku Tōeki Pair of six-fold screens (byōbu) c.1610-44 (early Edo Period)

Unknown Bowl with lotus flowers and peony 1662–1722 (Kangxi period)

Unknown  c.1760-80

Kitagawa Utamaro Shaving the neck (from 'Furyu goyo no matsu' (‘Elegant five-needled pine’) series) c.1797–98

Kikugawa Eizan (Beauty on parade) c.1810

Ichiryusai Hiroshige Ryogoku, hanabi (no. 98 from 'Meisho Edo hyakkei' series) (Fireworks at Ryogoku (no. 98 from 'One hundred famous views of Edo' series)) 1858

Unknown Untitled (Chakraman) late 19th century

Shōun (Gempō Sōhan) Sweets container early 20th century