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Storytelling in Japanese Painting

written by Masako Watanabe

Yale University Press | ISBN 9780300175905

Paperback – 95 pages


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Nearly as old as humanity itself is the impulse to tell and illustrate stories. In Japan, the narrative drive has been expressed both in sweeping literary sagas (such as the celebrated Tale of Genji) and in long, detailed, stunningly beautiful handscrolls. Storytelling in Japanese Painting presents seventeen classic Japanese stories—tales romantic and horrifying, epic and meditative—as told through 30 remarkable scrolls, ranging from the 13th to 19th centuries. Among them are the supernatural Great Woven Cap; the story of the valiant Peach Boy and his battle against the ogres; the 11th-century psychological novel The Tale of Genji; and the political allegory Tale of a Strange Marriage. Each scroll is accompanied by a brief relation of the tale being illustrated, while the book's introduction discusses the history and tradition of storytelling in Japanese art. A series of multiple gatefolds allows many of these scrolls to be appreciated in detail, while preserving the sweep and grandeur of these complex, colorful, evocative works of visual and narrative wonder.

Masako Watanabe is senior research associate in the department of Asian art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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