Waves at Matsushima, Tawaraya Sōtatsu (fl. ca. 1600ⲻ1643), Japan, Edo period, 17th century, six-panel folding screens; ink, color, gold, and silver on paper, Gift of Charles Lang Freer, Freer Gallery of Art, F1906.231ⲻ232

During the Edo period (1603‒1868), Japanese artists used a range of innovative methods to bring the natural world and its inhabitants to striking life. To animate eagles and trees, puppies and fish, and even waves and clouds, they used asymmetry, abstraction, stylization, and empty space—techniques that were later seen in Modern Art of the West. In Linda Hoaglund’s film Edo Avant Garde, she explores how Japanese artists created such elegant and original art by filming many Edo-period masterpieces housed in the National Museum of Asian Art’s and other institutions’ collections.

Investigating Japan’s Edo Avant Garde draws on artworks, video clips, interviews, and insights from the film to explore Edo-period art through five themes: Painting Nature, Our Environment, Depicting Birds and Animals, Artistic Techniques, and Edo Avant Garde. Each theme has two subthemes with lesson plans tailored for elementary, middle, and high school students. The image-driven curriculum is designed to engage K‒12 students with art from the Edo period and the natural world reflected in the artists’ creations.

Investigating Japan’s Edo Avant Garde was made possible by a generous grant from The Freeman Foundation.