Monkeys, Apes, and Mr. Freer

West Ambulatory
January 7–July 26, 2020



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In 1912, Oberlin College received 100 works of Chinese and Japanese art from Charles L. Freer (1854–1919), an American collector best known for his gifts to the Smithsonian Institution. Freer’s selections for Oberlin include fine examples of East Asian painting, ceramics, and sculpture. A number of the works collected by Freer feature monkeys or apes, and they appear in the three Japanese paintings in this exhibition.

The work titled Street Entertainer apparently came to the college in need of treatment. In 2017, the museum was able to remount and conserve the painting with funding from the Sumitomo Foundation of Japan, through its Grant Program for the Protection, Preservation, and Restoration of Cultural Properties Outside Japan. Street Entertainer is now on public view for the first time in more than a century, bringing well-deserved attention to this fascinating painting.

Organized by Kevin R.E. Greenwood, Joan L. Danforth Curator of Asian Art.

Image: Kano Sanraku (Japanese, 1559–1635), Street Entertainer, mid-16th–early 17th century hanging scroll, ink and color on paper. Gift of Charles L. Freer, 1912.30