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The Art of Friendship: Japanese Surimono Prints

3 March 2017 – 27 August 2017 


'......a visually sumptuous exhibition of surimono drawn from the outstanding collection of the Chester Beatty Library.' 
Irish Times, March 2017

The word surimono means simply ‘printed thing’. Prepared as gifts for exchange among friends and acquaintances at New Year and on other special occasions, these privately-published prints were products of the flourishing literary culture of Edo Japan.

The surimono commissioned by poetry circles in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries combine short verses composed at poetry gatherings with designs prepared by leading artists. Taking their subjects from the scholar’s desk and the literary canons of Japan and China, surimono embody the eloquence and amity of these cultivated salons and offer a glittering glimpse into a world rich in playful allusion.

The most lavish of Japanese prints, the quality and refinement of surimono appealed greatly to Sir Alfred Chester Beatty and he amassed a collection considered one of the finest in the world. This year is the 60th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations between Japan and Ireland. As artistic and poetic sentiments shared to mark the passing of time and friendship’s renewal, surimono offer the perfect medium to celebrate this important occasion.


With support from the Japan Foundation and the American Friends of the Arts in Ireland.