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Ito Jakuchu Exhibit at The National Gallery of Art

For the first time ever outside of Japan, Ito Jakuchu's "Colorful Realm of Living Beings" is on display in its entirety at the National Gallery of Art's West Building in Washington, DC. The exhibition is organized in conjunction with the National Gallery of Art, The Imperial Household Agency, Nikkei Inc., and in association with the Embassy of Japan.

The exhibition is open for an incredibly limited time due to the fragility of the 30 hanging scrolls that comprise Jakuchu's celebrated work. The exhibit is in celebration of the 100 year anniversary of Japan's gift of 3,000 cherry trees to Washington, D.C. The Japanese loan of the precious works exemplifies the spirit of cross-cultural giving and honor. It is quite an honor for the works to be displayed in America, as they are even rarely exhibited in its home country of Japan. Art lovers who favor the New York City contemporary art scene over historic naturalistic works can still find inspiration from Jakuchu's spiritual exploration.

Jakuchu's work is often said to reflect an intense artistic and technical accomplishment in all of Japanese painting. The body of work portrays a survey of mythical and actual plant and animal life. But the paintings cannot be simplified that easily. Beneath the surface viewpoint of flowers and animals, Jakuchu was trying to capture a religious essence: the Buddhist nature.

Jakuchu donated the "Colorful Realm of Living Beings" to Shokokuji, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, in 1765. At the time, it consisted of only 24 scrolls. At Shokokuji, the scrolls were displayed in a temple room during special Buddhist rituals. In 1889, the series was donated once again, this time to the Imperial Household.

Jakuchu is often noted as living in a richly symbolic world, which he sought to portray clearly within his paintings. "As an artist, he was not afraid of experimentation, as evidenced by his sophisticated painting effects," explained Gloria Garfinkel, a contemporary artist in New York City who has worked extensively with Japanese textiles, woodcut patterns and kimono designs.

Besides the beautiful scrolls, the exhibit also includes the dedicatory inscription that accompanied the gift of the scrolls and a calligraphy scroll by the monk Ko Yugai praising the work.

"The "Colorful Realm of Living Beings" scrolls promises a remarkable experience," said Gloria Garfinkel from her NYC modern art studio. "Through these works, we can gain a better understanding of the connection between nature and Buddhism and how they influenced historic and modern art."