Exhibition: Earthly Exemplars – The Art of Buddhist Disciples and Teachers in Asia (The Fralin Museum of Art)

Date of event:   27/08/2022 − 19/03/2023

Exhibition title: Earthly Exemplars: The Art of Buddhist Disciples and Teachers in Asia
Duration: 27 August 2022 – 19 March 2023
Location: The Fralin Museum of Art, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA

Arhats and teachers are subjects of worship as they continue the unbroken transmission of Buddhism and allow devotees to engage with the Buddha’s teachings.

During the 17ththrough19th centuries, imagery of arhats and teachers circulated across Tibet, Qing China, and Edo Japan through trade, migration, and diplomatic exchange. Under these growing transnational exchanges in Asia, artists represented the transmission of Buddhism and infused new political and stylistic meanings into their depictions of lineages and arhats. To maintain a close relationship with the Tibetan Buddhist prelates, the Qing court commissioned Buddhist art projects that link the court as part of a sacred genealogy. Paintings of incarnation lineage and biographies of teachers and arhats were produced in monasteries and distributed across Tibet and China. Because the cult of the arhat reached Japan largely through Chinese monks, many Japanese artists adopted Chinese painting traditions in their depictions of these “worthy ones.”

Bringing together sculpted and painted imagery of arhats and teachers from Tibet, Qing China, and Edo Japan, this exhibition explores how artists utilized composition, style, and media to cultivate spiritual legitimacy and construct visual lineages.

Image: Selected page from Studies of Ancient Masters (Gakko-jō). Kano Tsunenobu, Japan, ca. 1695. Ink and color on silk and paper, 11 1/4 x 9 7/8 in. Anonymous Gift, 1975.11. The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia.