Art: Figures on the Wide Screen

In New York, a show of Japanese genre painting

At the end of the 16th century there was virtually no contact at all between Japan and Europe. Yet by one of the odd coincidences of history, art began to move in a similar direction in both places at the same moment: there was a slow shift from high religious subjects toward the themes of everyday life. As Caravaggio painted his gamblers, gypsies and tavern scenes, so dozens of Japanese artists began to set down the details of street festivals and bathhouses on the largest...

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