Assembled over the last two decades, the Pearl and Seymour Moskowitz Collection numbers more than 660 prints from the eighteenth through the twenty-first century that focus on subjects outside of the ukiyo-e (“floating world”) mainstream. The collection is built on Pearl Moskowitz’s interests in narratives of societal underdogs and antiheroes, as well as in related subjects such as ghosts, tattoos, firemen, and sumo wrestlers. Many of these subject areas challenge the conventionally championed aspects of the warrior rule in the Edo period (1603–1868), therefore enabling a richer understanding of commoner culture and its impact on the arts of Japan. The collection also affords intimate insights into aspects of theater history, as well as into the social histories of traditional Japan. For example, prints depicting supernatural beings, which worked in parallel with the tricks used to depict them on the kabuki stage, underscore the preference for the macabre that developed in Japan in the early nineteenth century. Sumo, a popular sport during the Edo period, is another underrepresented area of ukiyo-e studies, represented in very few catalogues and exhibitions to date. In its high quality and quantity, the Pearl and Seymour Moskowitz Collection stands out as a vibrant and idiosyncratic representation of subject areas largely outside traditional ukiyo-e studies, offering intimate glimpses into an alternative history of Japanese prints.
The Pearl and Seymour Moskowitz Collection of Japanese prints
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, S2021.5.1–662