Kano Shōei, Pheasants and Azaleas; Golden Pheasants and a Loquat Tree. Muromachi period, 1560s. Pair of hanging scrolls; ink, color, and gold on paper, each scroll 101 x 49 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Mary Griggs Burke: Bringing Japanese Art to the Forefront

Mary Griggs Burke is not a name many have heard of but when she passed away in 2012, there were many mournful faces, specifically from those in the art world. Recognised as having the largest private collection of Japanese art outside of Japan, Griggs Burke had quite an impact on the emergence of Asian art in the United States.

Mary Griggs Burke, 2006.
Mary Griggs Burke, 2006.

“The beauty of the Japanese aesthetic first struck me when I saw my mother’s kimono, a padded winter garment of black silk displaying at the knee a bold design of twisted pine branches covered with snow.[…] It was then, I believe, that a future collector of Japanese art was born.”

Kano Shōei, Pheasants and Azaleas; Golden Pheasants and a Loquat Tree. Muromachi period, 1560s. Pair of hanging scrolls; ink, color, and gold on paper, each scroll 101 x 49 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Kano Shōei, Pheasants and Azaleas; Golden Pheasants and a Loquat Tree. Muromachi period, 1560s. Pair of hanging scrolls; ink, color, and gold on paper, each scroll 101 x 49 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Due to this spectacular eye for detail she amassed beautiful objects throughout her life and continuously inspired and encouraged artists and creators. Through her support and promotion of Japanese and Asian art she was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure by the Japanese Government in 1987. Mary Griggs Burke demonstrated her sheer joy and passion for the subject in a myriad of ways and this collection is a perfect representation of her love of Japanese art.

Chapter 78 of Daihan’nya haramitakyō (大般若波羅密多経), Late Heian period, 12th century. Handscroll cover and frontispiece; gold and silver ink on indigo paper, 25.9 x 21.3 cm. Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minnesota.
Chapter 78 of Daihan’nya haramitakyō (大般若波羅密多経), Late Heian period, 12th century. Handscroll cover and frontispiece; gold and silver ink on indigo paper, 25.9 x 21.3 cm. Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minnesota.

After her death in 2012, Mary Griggs Burke’s collection was divided between the Metropolitan Museum and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, and now after the details of her bequeaths have been made public, they are on display for the first time since 1975. Some newer additions have never been seen before! For a chance to see some of these pieces an exhibition entitled “Celebrating the Arts of Japan: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection” will be at the Metropolitan Museum in New York from the 20th of October 2015.

Kaikei, Fudō Myōō (不動明王), Kamakura period, early 13th century. Lacquered, polychromed, and gilded Japanese cypress (hinoki) with kirikane and inlaid crystal eyes, height: 51.5 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Kaikei, Fudō Myōō (不動明王), Kamakura period, early 13th century. Lacquered, polychromed, and gilded Japanese cypress (hinoki) with kirikane and inlaid crystal eyes, height: 51.5 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

If your interests lie in Asian art and you would like to uncover a more revealing side to it, why not get your hands on Forbidden Asia, a book by Parkstone International that delves into erotic art of the east, or read about Japan’s notorious Hokusai. There is also The Art of Champa, treasures of ancient Vietnamese art, or Impressions of Ukiyo-E, an exploration of traditional figurative Japanese art.

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