Unexpected Smiles: Seven Types of Humor in Japanese Paintings is on view October 18, 2017, through January 28, 2018, in the Harnett Museum of Art, University of Richmond Museums. Featuring forty-eight paintings on hanging scrolls, the works in this exhibition illustrate how humor developed in Japan from the 1700s to the early 1900s. The seven categories of humor are: parody, satire, personification, word-play, fantasy, exaggeration, and playfulness. The paintings have been chosen from private and public collections in the United States. Some of the artists included are famous, such as Sȏtatsu, Hakuin, Shȏhaku, Jakuchȏ, Rengetsu, Nantenbȏ, and Kodȏjin, while others are little-known. Together they display a great variety of styles and subjects with the single common point of humor.
“This is the first exhibition outside Japan to feature different types of humor in Japanese paintings dating from the mid-17th to the mid-20th centuries,” states curator Stephen Addiss. “I am very pleased to present this facet of Japanese visual culture that is little known but quite delightful.”
In 1600 the Tokugawa clan succeeded in reuniting Japan after almost a century of violent power struggles. Establishing its Shogunate in Edo (now Tokyo), the Tokugawa ruled for 268 years until Japan was forced to open to the West in 1868. While the regime brought peace and relative prosperity to the populace, it attempted to control almost every aspect of life and shut Japan off from the rest of the world.
One of the ways to alleviate the repressions of the Shogunate was through humor, both verbal and visual; it was officially tolerated as long as it was not directed at the government. The need for “letting off steam” was one of the causes of a great outpouring of comic poems, pointed jokes, witty puns, and amusing paintings. Within their profoundly humanistic framework, the drollery, wit, waggishness, irony, and whimsy of the paintings in this exhibition will surely lead viewers to their own, often unexpected, smiles.
Organized by the University of Richmond Museums and curated by Stephen Addiss, Professor of Art History, Emeritus, University of Richmond. The exhibition and programs are made possible in part with funds from the Louis S. Booth Arts Fund. A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue, published by the University Museums, is available.
Wednesday, October 18, 2017, 6 to 8 p.m.
Opening Reception, Harnett Museum of Art, Modlin Center for the Arts
6 to 8 p.m., Reception and previews of the exhibitions
6:30 to 7 p.m., “Curators Remarks” with Stephen Addiss, Professor of Art History Emeritus, University of Richmond, and curator of Unexpected Smiles, and Audrey Yoshiko Seo, independent scholar and curator of WAR-DROBE
Harnett Museum of Art, University Museums, Modlin Center for the Arts
Friday, November 3, 3 p.m. & 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, November 5, 7:30 p.m.
Film Screening, Ukrop Auditorium, Robins School of Business
Miss Hokusai (2015)
Introduction on Friday, November 3, 3 p.m., by Kristopher Kersey, Assistant Professor of Art History, Department of Art and Art History, University of Richmond
Sunday, November 5, 1 to 3 p.m.
Family Arts Day Celebration! Harnett Museum of Art, Modlin Center for the Arts
Join the University Museums and Modlin Center for a FREE arts-centered family fun day with exploration of exhibitions, hands-on art activities, and refreshments!
3 p.m., Performance, Alice Jepson Theatre, Modlin Center for the Arts
Featuring Click, Clack, Moo by Theatreworks USA (paid tickets required for performance), for information visit modlin.richmond.edu
Monday, November 13, 2017, 4 to 6 p.m.
4 to 4:30 p.m., Gallery Talk, Harnett Museum of Art, Modlin Center for the Arts
“What’s So Funny?” Stephen Addiss, Professor of Art History Emeritus, University of Richmond, and curator of the exhibition
4:30 to 6 p.m., Happy Hour reception
Sunday, January 28, 2018, 2 to 4 p.m.
2 p.m., Meditation Workshop, Harnett Museum of Art, Modlin Center for the Arts
Kevin Heffernan, Buddhist Campus Minister, University of Richmond, and Lay Leader, Richmond Zen
3 to 4 p.m., Tea reception and viewing of the exhibition Unexpected Smiles: Seven Types of Humor in Japanese Painting, Harnett Museum of Art, University Museums, Modlin Center for the Arts
Co-sponsored by the Office of the Chaplaincy