Universiteit Leiden

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Augmented Realities: Japanese Literati Painting, Circa 1700–1800

  • Frank Feltens (Smithsonian Institution)
Thursday 29 February 2024
Leiden Lecture Series in Japanese Studies
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


Spanning the late seventeenth to early nineteenth centuries, the Japanese literati phenomenon in the early modern period was a loose movement of artists who thrived on their mutual veneration for a real and imagined China. These artists formed an aesthetic microcosm that catered to a network of like-minded individuals scattered across the realm. As disparate, individualized, and multifaceted as the literati movement was, these artists united by means of a common referential language that embraced diverse notions of “China”—a place that was at once familiar and exotic, as much imagined as it was known. The concept of layering and enhancing—augmenting—a specific context and situation provides a useful framework for thinking about creative practices among early modern Japanese literati.

With a focus on Yosa Buson (1716-1783) and Aoki Mokubei (1767-1833), this talk will explore how the concept of augmented realities can help us to imagine how the merging of artistic and actual realities may have been experienced by the literati during their time. In that context, the talk considers how people in a largely closed-off country negotiated the influx of (albeit filtered) information with their own imaginations and within their own shared community.

About the speaker

Frank Feltens is Curator of Japanese Art at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art in Washington, DC. He holds a PhD from Columbia University and specializes in the history of Japanese painting.

Feltens’ books include, among others, Ogata Kōrin: Art in Early Modern Japan (Yale, 2021), Sesson Shūkei: A Zen Monk-Painter in Medieval Japan (with Yukio Lippit; Hirmer, 2021), and Japan in the Age of Modernization: The Arts of Ōtagaki Rengetsu and Tomioka Tessai (Smithsonian, 2023). His forthcoming book Imagined Neighbors: Visions of China in Japanese Art, Circa 1680-1980 will be released in May 2024.

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