Friday May 19, 2017
Tags for: The Cleveland Museum of Art Presents: Reeds and Geese: Japanese Art from the Collection of George Gund III
  • Press Release

The Cleveland Museum of Art Presents: Reeds and Geese: Japanese Art from the Collection of George Gund III

exterior of the CMA building

Exhibition features works from the recent bequest of medieval Japanese art

Cleveland (May 18, 2017) – Reeds and Geese: Japanese Art from the Collection of George Gund III celebrates the 2015 bequest to the Cleveland Museum of Art of significant works of Japanese art from the collection of Cleveland native George Gund III. Gund’s bequest has significantly expanded the museum’s holdings of important 14th-to 17th-century Japanese ink paintings and calligraphies and added to the collection a group of early Japanese ceramics from the 12th to 16th centuries. The exhibition features 20 works from the bequest, including a diverse selection of light-sensitive ink paintings, the majority of which are on view at the museum for the first time since the 2000 exhibition Ink Paintings and Ash-Glazed Ceramics. Reeds and Geese: Japanese Art from the Collection of George Gund III explores the ways in which Japanese art from these periods has been appreciated and reinterpreted in later eras. Complementing the rarely seen works on view will be 15 related paintings and tea ceramics. Reeds and Geese: Japanese Art from the Collection of George Gund III is on view May 21 through September 3, 2017, in the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Exhibition Gallery.        

“George Gund III maintained a wonderful relationship with the Cleveland Museum of Art throughout his life, and we are pleased to present a selection of important works from his notable collection,” said William Griswold, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “Gund’s bequest has allowed the museum to expand its holdings of Japanese art, and we are thrilled to share these works with our visitors.” 

Beginning in the 1200s Chinese Chan (Zen) Buddhist monks brought calligraphy, poetry, ink paintings, and aesthetically compelling useful objects to Japan, transforming the Japanese visual landscape in ways that still impact Japanese culture today. From the 1300s through the 1500s, paintings inscribed with poems became important in the gift-giving culture of Japan’s ruling elites. From the 1500s onward, tea ceremonies, Japanese rituals of preparing and serving green tea, provided a setting in which prized works could be appreciated along with specially selected works in stoneware and porcelain, or metal and lacquer. Reeds and Geese: Japanese Art from the Collection of George Gund III highlights the importance of preserving and presenting these works of art, especially in the context of tea culture. 

“In contemporary life, many of us encounter calligraphies and paintings like these in museums and galleries where they are on view for weeks or months at a time. But they were originally brought out to be seen for only a matter of hours in private settings,” said Sinéad Vilbar, curator of Japanese art. “Later on, a handful of guests might be gathered to drink tea together and would view a hanging scroll in a display alcove. The owner, usually the host of the gathering, would likely also share the scroll’s boxes and associated commentary, made and collected over the centuries to tell the story of the scroll. This exhibition gives people the chance to see both works of art and a sampling of the associated items that create these stories.”   

The exhibition is organized into three elegant and serene galleries, each emphasizing a different aspect of medieval Japanese art. The introductory gallery, Sesshū and the South, focuses geographically on the south of Japan with works associated with the artist Sesshū Tōyō (1420–1506) and the Unkoku school of painters in Yamaguchi in the south of Japan’s main island of Honshu. It also includes a painting depicting the famed but doomed man of letters, courtier Sugawara Michizane (845–903) in Daizaifu, the place to which he was exiled on the southern island of Kyushu. In this region, one encounters active engagement with Chinese and Korean culture in the production of paintings as well as tea ceramics.   

Chinese Literature and the Zen Monastic System presents a work inscribed by one of the most important figures of the medieval period’s earliest era, Yishan Yining (1247–1317), who disseminated classical Chinese literature—especially poetry—in both Kamakura in Kanto in the east and to the west in Kyoto, the former capital city of Japan. Some of the earliest ink painting and Chinese-style poetry was produced in Kyoto, and the Ashikaga military regime amassed an important collection of Chinese paintings that served as references for eminent Japanese painters in their employ. Inscribed ink paintings and calligraphies were later paired with prized ceramics and seasonal floral arrangements in the practice of tea culture. Works in the gallery attest to the diversity of regional ink painting that developed over the course of the medieval period.

The final gallery, The House of Kano, pays homage to the Kano school of painters who were active across Japan for 400 years, with major practitioners of the house style in both the east and west. Beginning with its founder, Kano Masanobu (1434–1530), to its final master, Kano Hōgai (1828–1888), the house of Kano developed into a vast professional network. Originally based solely in Kyoto, the Kano school was famous for its fan paintings. Stretching from the Muromachi period (1392–1573) to the Edo period (1615–1868) the Kano became the official painters of the Ashikaga shoguns, or Japanese military government, and later the Tokugawa shoguns. They also handled important commissions for the imperial family, as well as for regional rulers. While different branches of the school had different stylistic signatures, all were founded in the studious copying of all manner of Song and Yuan dynasty Chinese prototypes, as well as later Ming dynasty models.      

Visitors also have the opportunity to enjoy the Japanese art of flower arranging. In collaboration with Ikebana International Chapter 20 and the Womens Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art, a special Ikebana flower arrangement will be on view at the entrance of the exhibition. Each week, Ikebana artists will create an original arrangement that will highlight the 600-year-old floral art form while enhancing the visual experience of the exhibition. 

Gund’s bequest includes several rare Korean ink paintings ranging from the 16th through the 19th century. As a parallel presentation, these works will be on view beginning July 28 in the Korea Foundation Gallery.

Highlights in Reeds and Geese: Japanese Art from the Collection of George Gund III


Reeds and Geese, c. 1314–17
Hanging scroll, ink on paper
Inscription by Yishan Yining (Chinese, 1247–1317) 
Japan, Kamakura period (1185–1333)
Gift from the Collection of George Gund III 2015.464

Reeds and geese has been a common pairing in Chinese literary and visual culture for many centuries. This painting presents the contribution of a Japanese amateur painter, almost certainly a Zen Buddhist monk, to Japan’s fledgling efforts to add the theme to its own cultural vocabulary in the early 1300s. As was customary at the time in Japan, the painter did not sign or seal his work; the inscription, a poem added to the painting by the eminent émigré monk Yishan Yining, along with his signature and seal, was of far greater cultural value. Today, the modestly sized painting has tremendous significance as one of the earliest surviving examples of Japanese ink paintings with reeds and geese.


Landscape, mid-1500s
Hanging scroll, ink on paper
Kano Motonobu (Japanese, about 1476–1559), Inscription by Gesshū Jukei (Japanese, 1470–1533)
Japan, Muromachi period (1392–1573)
Gift from the Collection of George Gund III 2015.518

The large red tripod-shaped seal on this painting is that of Kano Motonobu, head of the Kano school atelier in Kyoto that served the shogun. Gesshū Jukei, a longtime resident of the Zen temple Kenninji in Kyoto, inscribed the poem. The two are known to have worked together on at least one other occasion. The poem describes an intimate meeting of dear friends, a suitable theme for a work that was likely given as a gift to an esteemed associate, perhaps weary of the politics of life in the capital.


Storage Jar, 1500s 
Stoneware with natural ash glaze (Shigaraki ware) 
Japan, Muromachi period (1392–1573) 
Gift from the Collection of George Gund III 2015.505

Shigaraki ware is produced in the Shigaraki area of Shiga prefecture to the east of Kyoto in the Kansai region. The clay from Shigaraki has a warm orange color. When fired in an anagama kiln, a type of wood-fired kiln that uses the oxidization process, the free flow of air allows for the appearance of the ash and mineral glazes that characterize the works. Shigaraki storage jars like this one, a tsubo, have been popular for storing tea leaves since the Muromachi period.


Storage Jar, 1350–1400 
Stoneware with natural ash glaze and impressed designs (Tokoname ware) 
Japan, Nanbokuchō period (1336–92)
Gift of George Gund 1992.356

This storage jar was made by piling coils of clay atop one another, smoothing the inner and outer surfaces, and allowing the clay to dry before adding another section of the form. The wide rim and mouth were then added using a potter’s wheel. Because of its small base, the vessel could stand safely on a narrow step on the steep slope of a rising kiln floor. Such kilns were built into the side of a hill and used wood for firing. The natural ash glazes took about a week to 10 days to form.

About George Gund III

Gund’s interest in Asian art was born during his first visit to Japan while serving in the Marine Corps. His love of monochromatic ink painting and calligraphy deepened throughout his life as he amassed a collection that exemplifies an intensely personal vision and refined sensibility. Gund’s accomplishments and contributions are a testament to his wide-ranging interests and skills; he was co-owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team and the San Jose Sharks hockey team, chairman of the San Francisco Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival, and served on the boards of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Film Society, the Gund Foundation, and the National Museum of the American Indian. His love of art and music harken back to his childhood when he visited the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Symphony with his family. 


Curator Chats

Every Tuesday, 12:00

Meet in the exhibition 

Join curator Sinéad Vilbar for a discussion of work from Reeds and Geese: Japanese Art from the Collection of George Gund III 

June 20: Landscapes of Sesshū Tōyō

June 27: Views of Xiao and Xiang

July 11: Tea Ceramics  

July 18: Literature of the Five Mountains 

July 25: The Ashikaga Shogunal Collection 

August 1: Packaging: What’s in a Box? 

August 8: Mountings: Formats and Flexibility 

August 15: The Kano School

August 22: Zen Figure Painting 

August 29: Modes and Memory


Introduction to the Tea Ceremony 

Sat/July 8, 1:00 or 3:00

Private Dining Room

Tea ceremony, or Chado (The Way of Tea), is a traditional Japanese art involving the ritualistic preparation of tea. Influenced by the philosophy of Zen Buddhism, the core teaching of Chado is to attain a spiritual state of selflessness and peacefulness through making and sharing tea. Join tea master Yuko Eguchi to learn the history and philosophy of Japanese tea ceremonies while tasting Japanese tea and sweets. 

Yuko Eguchi is a native of Tokyo, Japan and holds a PhD in ethnomusicology from the University of Pittsburgh. She received her tea master title and name, Soyu, in 2009 and the associate professor of tea title in 2013, certified by the head master of the Urasenke school. Yuko has performed and lectured on Japanese traditional arts at various higher institutions.

$12/$8 CMA members. Two sessions available; please register for only one. Registration opens June 1.  


The exhibition is made possible in part by a generous grant from the George Gund Foundation.

The Cleveland Museum of Art is generously funded by Cuyahoga County residents through Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. The Ohio Arts Council helped fund this exhibition with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.

Contact the Museum's Media Relations Team:
(216) 707-2261