Art through a Lifetime: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection. Miyeko Murase, Soyoung Lee, and David Ake Sensabaugh. University of Washington Press, Seattle.
Art Through a Lifetime is compendium-like in its presentation of the entire Mary Griggs Burke collection, with weight given to quality photographic reproductions of the artworks, as well as their seals and signatures. One of the most important collections of Japanese art (particularly Japanese painting) ever assembled privately outside of Japan, The Mary Griggs Burke Collection is truly astounding in its breadth and quality.
It is a superb hard-cover production with two volumes presented in a thick card slip—inspirational for students and collectors of Japanese painting alike. It has been a welcome addition to my bookshelf. Over 500 Japanese painting and calligraphy works are contained within the 1st volume; however, there is an absence of explanatory text beyond the artist’s name (where known), the title of the work, its size, and its previous publication or collection notes. For text on some of the more important pieces, we need to turn to Bridge of Dreams: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection of Japanese Art. It is a rewarding activity to compare the two books and note the paintings included and those that were not in the 2000 Bridge of Dreams exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum. This exhibition highlighted 111 important paintings.
It is a boon for amateur scholars to be able to access the entire collection, even with its occasional imperfections. A reasonably superficial perusal of the works reveals a few problematic areas. In particular, some of the Nagasawa Rosetsu and Ito Jakuchu paintings need to be examined carefully, as do the Shen Quan or Chin Nanpin paintings in the Nagasaki school section.
In 2015, the collection was divided between the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Both museums are making the paintings available for viewing through their online collection databases.
More significantly, there is a companion website to the book—Art through a Lifetime. This exceptional website provides enlarged images of almost every painting published in the book. Importantly, images of the seals and signatures of each painting have been provided at almost twice the size of those in the book. For those that decide against obtaining a copy of the book, the website is a godsend. Hats off to the officers of the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation for making such an inspirational and educational collection available to the world.