Smithsonian’s Sackler Gallery premieres visionary works by Japanese master painter

WASHINGTON, DC.- In early 1854, just as American Commodore Matthew Perry’s ships steamed into Edo Bay to persuade Japan to open its ports to the world, the esteemed painter Kano Kazunobu (1816–63) received a commission from a highly respected Buddhist temple located in the heart of Edo, now modern-day Tokyo. His mission was to create 100 paintings on a wildly popular theme of the day—the lives and deeds of the Buddha’s 500 disciples, known in Japan as rakan. For the first time in the U.S., Kazunobu’s graphic and flamboyantly imagined depictions of the daily lives and wondrous deeds of the Buddha’s legendary disciples are on view in “Masters of Mercy: Buddha’s Amazing Disciples” at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, March 10 through July 8. At the time of the commission, Kazunobu was a mature and important painter working in one of the richest artistic environments of any era in Japan, among several generations of artists