This exhibition from the collection of Helen and Paul Anbinder, Classes of 1962 and 1960, features the art of Japanese lacquer (urushi) and includes a variety of functional objects, mainly boxes, dating from the late Edo period to the present.
Both sculptural and pictorial, these exquisite objects include containers for writing implements (suzuribako), for small items (kobako), for mirrors (kagamibako), for documents (ryoshibako), for cosmetics (tebako), for food storage (kashibako), and portable lunch box sets (sagejubako). Often reflecting individual patrons’ tastes, the objects demonstrate an aspect of the art of lacquer that can be traced back to Japan’s early imperial court in the sixth century.
Sophisticated techniques and refined workmanship characterize the art of lacquer that developed in Japan over a thousand years, while subject, design, and pictorial composition reflect the time when a specific ware was made. At the beginning of its history, lacquer was utilized exclusively by those in power (the Imperial Household and the ruling military) and only later became widely used by ordinary people. Combining function, beauty, architectural structure and symbolism, lacquer remains one of the most distinctive means for traditional Japanese artistic expression.
We are grateful to Helen and Paul Anbinder for generously sharing their treasures of lacquer art with visitors to the Johnson Museum.
PhD Student, the History of Art