This unique and uniquely beautiful book presents the history of Japan through twenty centuries—as seen, remembered and recorded by her artists. In it the Japanese vision of life, in its richness, delicacy and complexity of pattern, is captured and clarified as never before.
Japan’s history is here projected not only through a brilliant historical narrative but through an unprecedented array of art treasures newly photographed in color-by a great American photographer—in Japan’s museums, Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines and private colloctions, including that of the Imperial Household. Most of the 237 works of art have never been seen outside Japan. Many of them, fragile and priceless, have never been available even in Japan, except to accredited scholars.
Each work of art is faithfully reproduced, unretouched, in full color. Each was chosen not only for its extraordinary beauty and interest to the art comioisseur, but as a storytelling “panel” in a vast, dramatic, historical panorama that encompasses the rise and fall of dj-nasties, the sweep of religious and political movements, the flowering of the arts, and the minutiae of daily life both humble and princely.
On murals, in sculpture, on delicate screens and fans, in ceramics and prints, a hundred generations of artists depict the civilization of Japan. They portray her heroes and sages. They give life, with exquisite strokes of the brush, to the great events and small, from pre-history to the emergence of Japan as a twentieth-century world power. They illumine the development of Japanese theater, literature, religious and social ceremony. They trace the successive impact of Chinese, European and American influence.
From prehistoric huntsmen glimpsed on the mysterious bell-shaped bronzes of the Yayoi period to the birth of Buddha painted on silk, from episodes of the Mongol invasion (on a scroll commissioned bj’ a thirteenth-century warrior ti, commemorate his exploits in battle) to the face of the Meiji Emperor daringly portrayed on a Nishiki-e print, the book follows the course of Japanese history and the developing styles and techniques of Japanese art.
Japan—A History in Art is divided into ten historical periods, from the Archaic to the Meiji, each preceded by a detailed historical and art chronology. The appendix contains complete data on every work of art reproduced. The photography was made possible through the cooperation of Japan’s principal curators and private collectors. In selecting the art works and preparing the narrative, the author had the opportunity of consulting with leading scholars in Japan and the West.
The matchless collection of pictures superbly photographed, the lively and authoritative text, the magnificent printing and binding by Toppan of Tokyo—every page is in full color—combine to make what is perhaps the most remarkable and beautiful story of a people and its culture ever published.
Bradley Smith is one of the world’s outstanding photographers of art works. He has for twenty years photographed masterpieces of painting and sculpture in many countries for leading American and European periodicals, including Life and Paris-Match. His three previous books, among them Columhus in tlie New Wurld, have won him high praise for his vivid and meticulous historical writing.
Nagatake Asano who wrote the Art Introduction is the director of tlie world’s largest repository of Japanese art treasures, tlie Tokyo National Museum, and is counselor to Japan’s National Modern Pine Arts Museum. He was born in 1895, first son of the Marquis of Sano who formerly reigned over the province of Hiroshima. He has been a member of the House of Peers and the Japanese Cabinet and has been associated with the Imperial Houseliold. He has received the highest honors in recognition of his scholarship, both in his own countrv and abroad.
Marius B. Jansen who wrote the Historical Introduction is Professor of Japanese Ili.story and Director of the East Asian Studies Program at Princeton University. He is an associate editor of tlie Journal of Asian t^tvdics and a former executive associate of the International Hou.se of Japan. He is the author of Tlie Japanese and Sun Yat-scn (1954), Saltamoto Ryoma and tlie Meiji Restoration (1961), and other studies in Japanese history.