Japan Before Internet Cats

Whatever did people do for their daily cat fix before the invention of the internet? It’s sometimes hard to imagine there once existed other “mediums” that humans used to express their love for felines that also satisfied the instinctive needs of many to look at cats. The Life of Cats: Selections from the Hiraki Ukiyo-e exhibit, on at the Japan Society, shows us that our cat-obsession is a cross cultural phenomena dating back centuries and that Maru the cat wasn’t the first famous Japanese feline to be immortalized for all the world to see.

There are five sections to the exhibit: Cats and People, Cats as People, Cats versus People, Cats Transformed and Cats and Play. “The collection illustrates the depth of this mutual attraction by mining the wealth of bravura depictions of cats to be found in ukiyo-e woodblock prints of the Edo Period (1615-1868).

 Life of Cats , From the Hiraki Ukiyo E Collection,  Japan Society, Gallery Cats in Japanese Art, Cats in Art, Cat Art, Cats Ukiyo E, Japan, New York, Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861), Cats Suggested by the Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō (detail), 1847. Color woodblock print; each sheet 14 5/8 x 10 inches. Courtesy Private Collection, New York.

 Life of Cats , From the Hiraki Ukiyo E Collection,  Japan Society, Gallery Cats in Japanese Art, Cats in Art, Cat Art, Cats Ukiyo E, Japan, New York, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, famous internet cats, famous cats before the internet

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), Cat Crossing to Eat, 1830-44. Color woodblock print; 36 7/8 x 22 3/8 inches. Courtesy Hiraki Ukiyo-e Foundation.

Since arriving in Japan aboard Japanese ships transporting sacred Buddhist scriptures from China in the mid-sixth century, cats have proceeded to purr and paw their way into the heart of Japanese life, folklore, and art.”

 Life of Cats , From the Hiraki Ukiyo E Collection,  Japan Society, Gallery Cats in Japanese Art, Cats in Art, Cat Art, Cats Ukiyo E, Japan, New York, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, famous internet cats, famous cats before the internet, tigers, dragons

Yoshimura Kokei (1770-1836), Dragon and Tiger, Hanging scroll, ink, color, and gold on silk; 90 x43 1/2 inches. Courtesy of Joan B. Mirviss, Ltd. New York.

 Life of Cats , From the Hiraki Ukiyo E Collection,  Japan Society, Gallery Cats in Japanese Art, Cats in Art, Cat Art, Cats Ukiyo E, Japan, New York, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, famous internet cats, famous cats before the internet, tigers, dragons

Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858), Asakusa Ricefields and Torinomachi Festival from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, 1857. Color woodblock print; 22 ½ x 16 inches. Courtesy Hiraki Ukiyo-e Foundation.

Life with Cats exhibit gets animated in the Popular Hotspring Spa (of Cats)

Various pieces will rotate during the exhibit which runs from Friday, March 13 – Sunday, June 7, 2015 at the Japan Society in New York.

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