This Exhibition Has Ended

August 25, 2018
January 13, 2019
In the wing and Opatrny Galleries, Floor 2L

Many evocative images in East Asian art involve depictions of the moon, encompassing themes such as moonlight, moon viewing, moon poetry, and legends of the moon. This exhibition—drawn from the Johnson’s permanent collection and timed to coincide with the annual celebration of the Autumn Moon Festival—presents traditional Japanese, Korean, and Chinese painting, poetry, prints, and decorative arts, along with modern and contemporary works, that all feature the moon.

Traditional works convey the moon’s significance in a variety of ways. The moon as a symbol of the yin force and femininity can be seen in images of the moon goddess Chang-e, or depictions of the floating world of Japan’s pleasure quarters. In Zen Buddhist paintings, the moon’s reflection serves as a metaphor for illusion. A selection of prints from Yoshitoshi’s famous series One Hundred Aspects of the Moon illustrates the role of the moon in literary, religious, and popular stories. Other works show the moon in its various phases or emphasize its appearance over the course of the four seasons, to celebrate the natural beauty of the moon and the soft glow of moonlight. For many artists and poets, the moon represents an empathetic companion—a depiction of gazing at the moon might suggest tranquil solitude, or wistful longing for a distant friend, or the fleeting nature of love and pleasure.

Modern and contemporary works on view affirm the moon’s timeless appeal as a source of creative inspiration. Park Yungnam’s abstract painting from the series Moonlight Song was created by pouring paint on the canvas and working it with his fingers to capture the purity of nature. Her Suyoung’s mountain landscape includes a magical bicycle to take the viewer on an imaginary night journey illuminated by a full moon. A luminescent paper mural by American-born artist Sarah Brayer, who lives and works in Japan, provides an immersive experience of the moon’s glow, and is on view at the Johnson for the first time.


This exhibition was curated by Ellen Avril, chief curator and curator of Asian art at the Johnson, and supported through the generosity of Judith Stoikov, Class of 1963.