Art Historian Davis Elected President of International Forum

June 4, 2014

Associate Professor of the History of Art Julie Nelson Davis has been elected president of the Japan Art History Forum, an international organization for professionals engaged in the study of Japanese arts and cultures. Davis has been a member of the Forum since its founding in 1996, when she was part of its steering committee and served as the graduate student representative.

Davis’s primary research concerns Ukiyo-e, woodblock and painted “images of the floating world,” and the arts of the Tokugawa or Edo (Tokyo) period, which lasted from 1615 to 1868. She has also been nominated to serve on the board of directors for the International Ukiyo-e Society, headquartered in Tokyo.

Davis is the author of Utamaro and the Spectacle of Beauty. Other recent publications include an essay on the influential Ukiyo-e publisher Tsutaya Jûzaburô in Designed for Pleasure: The World of Edo Japan in Prints and Paintings, 1680–1860; a study of a painting by Teisai Hokuba in the Japanese art history journal Kokka; and an overview essay on Utamaro and his contemporaries in The Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Woodblock Prints. She is currently at work on a new book on artistic collaboration in Ukiyo-e between 1775 and 1810.  

Her projects at Penn include co-curating Dramatic Impressions: Japanese Theatre Prints from the Gilbert Luber Collection at the Arthur Ross Gallery, co-authoring the catalogue, and organizing the related symposium. She is also a founding member of a group of scholars working to make the skill of reading manuscript text a hallmark of the Japanese studies program at Penn. The ability to read pre-modern calligraphy is recognized as one of the most challenging tasks in Japanese studies. It is typically not taught in graduate programs in the United States but is increasingly important in interpreting pre-modern texts.