When modern war technologies, such as long-range ammunition, torpedoes, and electric searchlights, were introduced into the First Sino-Japanese War and the Russo-Japanese War at the turn of the 20th century, Japanese printmakers documenting battle scenes skillfully adapted the centuries-old techniques of ukiyo-e (woodblock printing) to achieve altogether new atmospheric and light effects. The Ackland’s exhibition Flash of Light, Fog of War examines how these printmakers created dynamic compositions—soldiers silhouetted against fiery pyrotechnic explosions, beams of bright white electrical light illuminating the hulls of steel warships, and the haze of spent gunpowder obscuring the brutal combat of the battlefield—that were part reportage and part dazzling artistic display.
Flash of Light, Fog of War draws on a gift of over 240 Japanese prints given to the Ackland Art Museum by Gene and Susan Roberts. For the exhibition, these prints have been supplemented with exciting new acquisitions and loans of Japanese textiles and ceramics from the collection of Jacqueline M. and Edward G. Atkins.
Flash of Light, Fog of War was organized by Bradley M. Bailey, Associate Curator of Asian Art, Ackland Art Museum, and is accompanied by a full-color exhibition catalogue.
This exhibition has been made possible by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Ackland’s Ruth and Sherman Lee Fund for Asian Art. Support for the exhibition catalogue was provided by Gene and Susan Roberts.
Still image: Bairin, artist (active 1894), and Hori Yata (active 1894), block carver: The Great Naval Battle of Haiyang Island, 1894; triptych of color woodblock prints (nishiki-e). Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, The Gene and Susan Roberts Collection, 2014.40.52a-c.