Beginning by asking, “What is Japanese art?” this book supplies an answer so broad in its reach, so rich in detail, and so extensively illustrated as to give a reader not just a true picture, but also a fine understanding, of Japanese art. Arranged thematically, the book includes chapters on nature and pleasure, landscape and beauty, all framed by the themes of serenity and turmoil, the two poles of Japanese culture ancient and modern. Highlighting—close up and in color—outstanding examples of design and craft in prints, paintings and screens, metalwork, ceramics, wood, stone, and lacquer, Japanese Art in Detail presents each image alongside enlarged details—details that otherwise might be virtually invisible to the naked eye—thus affording intriguing comparisons between seemingly unrelated pieces. Throughout, John Reeve provides cultural context while pointing out exceptional features.
Though drawn from one extraordinary source—the British Museum—the specific objects pictured here are representative of many others in public and private collections worldwide, and offer a clear idea, both broad and particular, of what constitutes Japanese art. Most of these images, as well as many of those mentioned, are accessible electronically through the British Museum’s online database, as are several tours linked to recent exhibits.