New Light on Japanese Painting: Recently Conserved Screens and Scrolls – Part 1

August 17, 2012 - October 14, 2012

Peacock with flowers and birds

This exhibition, presented in two consecutive installations, provides an up-close look at nine Japanese hanging scrolls and one folding screen, dating from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries, accompanied by revelatory and fascinating details about their conservation.

With the advice and support of world-renowned expert Sherman Lee, the Ackland assembled a remarkable collection of high quality Japanese paintings, often in spite of serious condition problems. The conservation of the Museum’s best screen and scroll paintings has been a longtime goal. Many of the pieces were acquired in fragile condition, at risk of further damage each time a scroll was unrolled or a screen unfolded. During the past three years, nineteen of the Ackland’s most significant and beautiful scroll and screen paintings have been conserved and remounted by the Nishio Conservation Studio in Washington, DC.

The conservators of Nishio Conservation Studio are masters of their craft who combine traditional Japanese materials and practices with a modern understanding of chemistry and professional commitment to documentation. Previously soiled, creased, and broken paintings have been removed from their multi-layered mounts to be cleaned, smoothed, and made secure. Losses in the original silk or paper have been filled with tiny inserts of silk or paper dyed to match and carefully cut to fill the holes without overlapping any of the original. New mounts were created using traditional silk brocades in proportions appropriate to each painting.

We thank the Institute of Museum and Library Services, The Sumitomo Foundation, The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, the Office of the Provost at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Shirley Drechsel and Wayne Vaughn, and the docents of the Ackland Art Museum for their generous support of this conservation project. We are currently seeking funding for an additional four paintings to be conserved and remounted by Nishio Conservation Studio.

Image Credit: Mekata Morimichi, Japanese, 1815–1880: One Hundred Birds Admiring the Peacock, 1860; mineral pigments, ink, and gold on silk. Gift of Eric and Martha Murray, ’87 and ’88. Conservation treatment for this painting, completed in 2010, was made possible by grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, The E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, and the Office of the Provost of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.