Art Gallery of Alberta

EDO: Arts of Japan’s Last Shogun Age
November 3-February 18, 2013


image credits [click to view]


Weight in the form of a Skull surmounted by a Snake, Edo period, early – mid 19th century. Image courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Hiroshige, Ando (1797–1858), Kiyomizu Temple and Shinobazu Pond at Ueno. Image courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Samurai Suit of Armour, Momoyama/Edo period (late 16th/early 17th century). Image courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Kunihisa Utagawa (1832-91), Crossing the Oi River, Image courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.



Edo is the old name for the city of Tokyo, but also refers to the history period extending from 1603 to 1868.  During this time, Japan was ruled by military leaders known as Shoguns of the Tokugawa family. The Tokugawa Shoguns were great patrons of the arts and encouraged the nobility to collect artworks as well, leading to the development of two distinct schools of ‘high art’.

During the Edo period, Japan also saw the rapid growth of a merchant class who desired to show off their new wealth through the acquisition of artistic goods. This gave rise to a new form of prints known as Ukiyo-e. Instead of depicting spiritual or scholarly subject matter, the Ukiyo-e showed the day-to-day life of the people of Japan—the different social classes, their occupations, the clothes they wore and even the way women dressed their hair. The prints also depict aspects of folklore, legends, theatre as well as historical scenes. Exquisite craftsmanship and technical ingenuity are the hallmarks of the Edo period and these aspects are reflected in the functional objects produced in the era. 

This exhibition features a wide variety of Edo period works of art on loan from the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s extensive and world famous Japanese collection, including: paintings, prints, ceramics, lacquerware and samurai armour, as well as the famed Ukiyo-e prints.

EDO: Arts of Japan’s Last Shogun Age is organized and circulated by the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria with assistance from the Canadian Department of Heritage, Museum Assistance Program and curated by Barry Till, Curator of Asian Art, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.