The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Smithsonian's Freer|Sackler, and the Portland Art Museum have jointly announced that they are to receive a gift of hundreds of works of Japanese art from Seattle-based collectors Mary and Cheney Cowles.
Comprising more than five hundred and fifty works, the gift includes paintings and calligraphy with links to East Asian literary traditions as well as ceramics and a curated group of Meiji and contemporary works. To be donated to the three institutions over the next five years, the pieces range in date from the eighth century to the present.
The Met is set to receive more than two hundred pieces, including one of the few surviving recognized works by early Zen monk-calligrapher Musō Soseki (1275–1351), as well as ink paintings dating from the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries; the Freer|Sackler will receive more than two hundred and fifty works, including a number of pieces by the artist Tomioka Tessai (1836–1924), whom Charles Lang Freer met in Japan; and PAM will receive a total of one hundred works, including the calligraphy Filial Piety, by Hakuin Ekaku (1685–1768), as well as the first Japanese painting purchased by Chaney Cowles, an 1867 ink painting by the Buddhist nun Ōtagaki Rengetsu (1791–1875) entitled Samurai Footman and Poem.
Cheney Cowles has been collecting East Asian art for over four decades and with his wife owns one of the most comprehensive privately held collections of Japanese painting and calligraphy in the West.
"The Met is deeply grateful to Mary and Cheney Cowles for this remarkable gift," said the museum's director, Max Hollein. "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."
(Image credit: Cowles collection, Portland Art Museum)