The work of Sadao Watanabe, a Japanese Christian print artist, will be on display in the Lighthouse Gallery at Covenant Shores in Mercer Island starting Jan. 25.
Watanabe (1913–96) was a printmaker celebrated for his depictions of biblical subjects using traditional Japanese techniques. He was famous for his stencil prints influenced by mingei undo, the Japanese folk art movement developed in the late 1920s and 1930s.
Influenced by Buddhist figure prints, Watanabe placed biblical subjects in a Japanese context. In his version of “The Last Supper” (1981), he depicts the disciples in kimono, dining on sake and sushi.
According to an article in Image, the arts quarterly based at Seattle Pacific University, “Watanabe’s life story is about how he found a way through art to remain true both to his Christian faith and his Japanese cultural heritage.”
The exhibit at Covenant Shores was curated by Anne Pyle, who helped found the Seattle-based National Bureau of Asian Research with her husband, Japan historian and UW professor Kenneth Pyle. NBR named its Pyle Center for Northeast Asian Studies after the couple in 2006.
Anne Pyle, who was Watanabe’s only private student and presently owns one of the largest collections of his work, gave a lecture about his life and art at Covenant Shores last week.
“Having the Watanabe exhibit at Covenant Shores is a unique opportunity,” observed Chaplain Greg Asimakoupoulos. “This world-acclaimed collection is rarely seen.”