An Assortment of Beauties: Japanese Woodblock Prints Collected by Frank Lloyd Wright

An Assortment of Beauties: Japanese Woodblock Prints Collected by Frank Lloyd Wright  features approximately 15 prints devoted to scenes and portraits of beautiful women created by many of Japan's leading artists in the medium of woodblock printmaking. All of the prints included in this exhibition were once owned by the celebrated American architect Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), who was a spirited collector of Asian art.

The theme of beautiful women is one component of a school of Japanese picture making known as ukiyo-e,  which can be translated as “pictures of the floating world.” Beautiful women (bijin) are depicted alone as well as in small and large groups, entertaining themselves by playing games, preparing themselves for the night, or promenading through the city with their attendants or children. During the Edo Period (1600- 1868), ukiyo-e  became immensely popular due to the blending of classical Japanese aesthetics with contemporary urban themes. Ukiyo-e  celebrated the hedonistic world inhabited by geishas and courtesans, as seen in the prints on view in this exhibition, and by the famous Kabuki actors.

Wright began purchasing Japanese prints around 1900 while living in Chicago, but expanded his collection greatly during his many trips to Japan between 1905 and 1922. He continued to buy and sell prints until his death in 1959. The Norton Simon Museum’s permanent collection contains more than 350 prints from Wright’s collection, which he amassed over a period of 50 years.

Artists in the exhibition include Chobunsai Eishi (1756-1829), Suzuki Harunobu (1724-1770), Okumura Masanobu (1686-1764), Eiri Rekisentei (active c. 1790-1800), Kitagawa Shikimaro (active c. 1810), Utagawa Toyokuni (1769-1825) and Kitagawa Utamaro (1754-1806).