Japanese Views of the Westerner

Soga Shōhaku, Western Hunter, c. 1765–70, ink and color on paper, the Kimiko and John Powers Collection of Japanese Art, MFA Houston

On the last day of the exhibit at the MFAH I saw Unrivalled Splendor: The Kimiko and John Powers Collection of Japanese Art. This was preceded by a fascinating talk by John Carpenter, curator of Japanese art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, entitled "Interaction between Text and Image in Japanese Paintings." My companion may have nodded off from time to time, but I was absolutely riveted during the talk, not by Mr. Carpenter's speaking style, but by the content which was mostly familiar but still exciting. 

Though there were many beautiful and intriguing works, one of my favorites in the show is the above Japanese painting of a European. I love these kinds of paintings because they are so rarely shown in art history. We Westerners usually only see or critique depictions of "the Other," a term that encompasses anything other than white and Western. It seems that, for a more complex understanding of the world, we should analyze how we are seen by our others.

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