A Nagasaki Geisha, ca. 1800

Ink and color on paper

Gift of Captain Henry King

Geisha: Beyond the Painted Smile

On view February 14, 2004 to May 9, 2004

Located in the: Special Exhibition Galleries

In Japan and throughout the world, the geisha is a cultural icon evoking notions of idealized feminine beauty. At the same time, the role of geisha in Japanese culture is clouded by misconceptions and cultural differences. Geisha, literally “persons of artistic accomplishment,” are women dedicated to the highest standards of performance in traditional dance, singing, and instrumental music, but who typically entertain in the intimate setting of a teahouse or restaurant. Geisha: Beyond the Painted Smile examines both the fallacies and the reality of the enigmatic world in which geisha work and live, offering audiences the opportunity to understand geisha as performer/entertainers who embody refinement and artistic excellence as well as allure. Through a superb array of artworks that include painting, woodblock prints, photography and video, as well as kimono, musical instruments and accessories worn and used by real geisha, visitors will gain exciting insight into a fascinating but little-understood world.

Further Reading