With a career spanning Japan’s transition from disintegrating feudal regime to modern nation, Shibata Zeshin (1807-1891) was an exceptional artist, reaching the zenith of both painting and lacquer. Nezu Museum’s exhibition “Shibata Zeshin: From Lacquer Arts to Painting” presents 139 objects from arguably the most broadly gifted artist of 19th-century Japan.

Born in Edo (now Tokyo), Zeshin joined the studio of the lacquer artist Koma Kansai II (1766-1835) as an apprentice at the age of 11, there learning the painstaking methods of using tree sap to create resilient and beautiful surface decoration. He subsequently moved to Kyoto to study the Maruyama-Shijo school of painting, which combined Western naturalism with East Asian brushwork. This training provided the intellectual and aesthetic foundation for his sophisticated art.

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