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Professor emeritus’ unique collection of Japanese woodblock prints on display at President’s Gallery

 
 The newest exhibit in the Black Hills State University President's Gallery is a group of Japanese Ukiyo-e prints from the private collection of Richard Hicks, BHSU professor emeritus.
A walk through the second floor of Woodburn Hall on the Black Hills State University campus will take you back to a time in Japanese history – a time before the country adopted the industrialized lifestyle of the West.

The newest exhibit in the BHSU President’s Gallery is a group of Japanese Ukiyo-e prints from the private collection of Richard Hicks, professor emeritus. Early in the 20th century, Hicks’ grandfather served as curator for Charles Freer, an internationally known art collector and original owner of the prints. Most of the art collected by Freer is part of the Freer collection at the Smithsonian Institute.

Ukiyo-e, which means “pictures of the floating world,” is a type of Japanese woodblock print produced mostly during 18th and 19th centuries, according to Hicks.

The prints, which were art for the lower class people, varied in subject matter but depicted such things as geishas, actors, landscapes and theatrical scenes, he said.

“These represent the authentic view of Japanese life - the old Japan before modernization and industrialization,” Hicks said. “That is why they are so valuable; they show a way of life that is gone.”

The exhibit will be up in the President’s Gallery through Aug. 1.

 
The Japanese woodblock prints varied in subject matter but depicted such things as geishas, actors, landscapes and theatrical scenes.
Freer, a wealthy Detroit businessman, turned his focus to art collecting after retiring at age 46 from a successful career in manufacturing railroad cars.

“He used the same techniques he used in business as he did in art collecting,” Hicks said.

Freer went on extended trips to the Orient where he would talk to art dealers, purchase pieces and then send them back to Detroit where Hicks’  grandfather, Stephen Warring, would take care of them. Warring, who came to Detroit from England to work for Freer, became his curator and was responsible for organizing, listing, storing, shipping and preserving the art.

Freer never intended to keep the collections to himself; his goal was always to share them with the nation, Hicks said. In 1906, Freer donated his collection to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. He supplied funds and the design for the Freer Gallery of Art where the collection remains today.

Over the years, Freer gave some of his art collection to Warring which included the Japanese Print collection currently on display in the President’s Gallery. Hicks said he is carrying on Freer’s tradition of sharing the art and hopes the public enjoys the collection.


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