The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington, D.C., and the Portland Art Museum in Oregon will receive donations of works of Japanese painting, calligraphy, and ceramics from Seattle-based collectors Mary and Cheney Cowles. The gifts, which together represent more than 550 pieces, will be dispersed to the museums over the course of the next five years.
Works in the collection span the eighth century to the present day. Highlights include early Edo period porcelains, tea wares, and inscribed paintings and calligraphy inspired by Japanese and Chinese poetry.
The Met will eventually get more than 200 works, including a rare calligraphy by Musō Soseki, who lived from 1275 to 1351; ink paintings created between the 14th and 17th centuries; and two pieces by the 16th-century ink painter Sesson. The Freer|Sackler is set to receive over 250 pieces, with a large number of works by Tomioka Tessai among them. And 100 works will go to the Portland Art Museum, with a hanging scroll dating to the 13th or 14th century, and a 1770s painting by poet Yosa Buson set to enter that institution’s collection.
Max Hollein, the director of the Met, said in a statement, “These works add great strength to our collection by filling gaps or complementing our renowned holdings. The vision and generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Cowles significantly enhances our ability to tell a more comprehensive history of Japanese art for the millions who visit the museum each year.”
Maribeth Graybill, the curator of Asian art at the Portland Art Museum, said, “This extraordinary gift will have a transformative impact on the Portland Art Museum and the artistic resources on the West Coast. Each of these artworks is among the finest of its type. The addition of these works to the Museum’s collection will make Portland an even more important destination for the study of Japanese art.”