Art: The Subtle Magic of Koetsu

A rare U.S. exhibit shows why the 17th century master's works are national treasures in Japan

Hon'ami Koetsu, the Japanese artist, is scarcely known in the U.S., but in Japan he is a national treasure several times over--about as famous there as Benvenuto Cellini is in the West. This is because he was one of the supreme masters of calligraphy, an art that matters only to specialists on the American side of the Pacific but is wholly central to Japanese and Chinese aesthetics. It's understandable, therefore, that the present show of Koetsu's work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, though respectably attended, has not been packing in the crowds. This is a boon for those who go...

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