This blog features posts from members of the Foundation's Research + Archives Team and guest contributors who share their expertise and insight on a variety of subjects related to the Garden of the Phoenix, including Garden updates, research and previews of content that is being collected for the Garden's archives.
The Story of the Ranma Panels, Part II: 2005-today
When I first came to The Art Institute of Chicago, I had the chance to view the two ranma panels that we owned. They were in our outside storage facility, and it took the coordination of a group of several staff members made up of conservators, registrars, and art handlers just to go out there and remove them at least partially from their crates to see what state they were in.
On permanent display at The Art Institute of Chicago are four exquisitely carved ranma, wooden architectural transoms, from the Hōōden (Phoenix Pavilion). Recognized as icons of both Chicago history and Japanese art, each panel depicts multi-colored birds with long feathers frolicking gracefully among blossoming paulownia trees that glisten with hints of gold.
Although it looked like one unified building from the outside, the three parts of the Hōōden (Phoenix Pavilion) were carefully conceived to showcase different historical eras of Japanese art. The interior structure and decoration of each room were done to match. This meant that as you moved through the Phoenix Pavilion, you could imagine yourself inside of a courtier’s residence, a shogun’s castle, and a medieval tearoom, all in the course of an afternoon. These were elegant period rooms to be sure, a veritable “theme park” of Japanese history.
July 1935 – The Opening of the Restored Phoenix Pavilion and Japanese Garden
On July 14, 1935, the Chicago Park District and the Japanese Consul at Chicago conducted its final inspection of the restored Phoenix Pavilion and newly constructed Japanese garden. Present were George T. Donohue, General Superintendent of the Chicago Park District, and Kaora Hayashi, acting Consul at Chicago. Also present at the July 15 final inspection, among other invited guests, where Mr. Shoji Osata, concessioner for the new Japanese garden complex, and three young women in kimono: H. Yamaji, Martha Shintani, and Kiyomi Shintani.