A peek into our collections, one object at a time

Odori Hitori Geiko (Dance Instruction Manual)

April 10, 2013

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Odori Hitori Geiko (Dance Instruction Manual)
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Odori Hitori Geiko (Dance Instruction Manual)

Similar to blogging and e-publication in the 21st century, wood-block illustrated books (ehon) in Edo-period Japan (1615–1868) evolved quickly into a popular mode of both artistic production and commercial trade.

In a striking and sweeping change from the past, when books were primarily reserved for the elite, the beautiful, intriguing and humorous subjects in ehon brought reading to the masses. It was an age of epic book consumption; artists and writers created many designs for these books, and the compact, paper-bound volumes circulated widely.

The creators of these books developed designs that still inspire and inform today’s popular manga artists.

This image is from Odori Hitori Geiko (Dance Instruction Manual) by Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) and is in the exhibition, “Hand-Held: Gerhard Pulverer’s Japanese Illustrated Books,” on view April 6–Aug. 11 at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. The exhibition highlights The Gerhard Pulverer Collection, which was acquired in its entirety by the Freer in 2007 and includes many of the rarest and most pristine illustrated books from the Edo period.

An animated GIF version of the dance sequence can be seen below: