Mystic Peak: Selections from the Jane and Raphael Bernstein Collection of Japanese Art, 2021-22

Mystic Peak

Guest curated by Melissa McCormick for the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College.  August 2021-February 6, 2022.

The show’s title comes from a work of calligraphy (below), a Zen kōan from the Blue Cliff Record (1125) in which a monk asks “What is the lone summit of mystic peak 妙峰頂?” The Daitokuji monk Seigan Sōi (1588-1661) who brushed the calligraphy answered the question with two brushstrokes that represent the wall-gazing Bodhidharma. The Bodhidharma, a word-picture (moji-e) made up of the character for “mind,” lies somewhere between text and image, neither and both; a perfect counterpart to the kōan.

Other highlights from the show include a rare portrait of the founder of the tea ceremony in Japan, Sen no Rikyū (1522-1591) by Tosa Mitsuoki (1617-1691),  two ink paintings by Soga Shōhaku (1730-81), an important Genji screen by Kano Takanobu (1571-1618), and a medieval Big Dipper Star Mandala, with combinatory deities.

This show is part of a multi-faceted series of exhibitions of the Jane and Raphael Bernstein collection at the Hood, "A Legacy for Learning," with an accompanying catalogue, encompassing 18th c. Hogarth prints, 20th-century American landscape and portrait photography, contemporary Inuit art from the Canadian Arctic, traditional Japanese art, and a collection of prints and paintings by Shinoda Tōkō (1913-2021). The exhibitions commemorate a major gift to the museum by the Bernsteins and their thirty-plus years of institutional support.


Take a virtual tour of Mystic Peak here, and an earlier installation during the museum’s closure of works by Toko Shinoda here, curated by Jessica Hong, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Toledo Museum of Art.

Seigan Sōi

Photo credit: Installation photo by John Strong.