Gilbert Luber and his wife, Shirley, took their first trip to Japan in the early 1970s to celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. While there, they fell in love with both antique and contemporary woodblock prints. Upon returning home, their interest quickly grew into an obsession, then a profession. Gilbert began an in-depth study of Japanese prints, and he and his wife returned to Japan the following year to purchase more. Annual trips to collect prints led to the opening in 1975 of the Luber Gallery in Philadelphia, the first gallery in the city to show the works of Japanese artists. Their annual purchasing trips continued for twenty years, and the Luber Gallery continued to flourish until Gilbert's death in 1999.
This catalogue, produced in conjunction with an exhibition at the University of Pennsylvania's Arthur Ross Gallery, highlights masterworks from Luber's stellar collection of nineteenth-century actor prints and images by the Osaka artist Natori Shunsen (1886-1960), a master of the Shin Hanga, or "new print." These prints were designed to appeal to the collector and, by using the most exquisite techniques in the medium, emphasized the dramatic expression achieved by kabuki's most celebrated practitioners. Dramatic Impressions is the first scholarly study that considers the ways these works were produced, appreciated, and collected, offering a new approach to the topic of actor prints.
The three essays in the catalogue take up issues specific to the collection and relevant to the study of Japanese woodblock prints. They also make significant contributions to the fields of collecting, Osaka prints, Shin Hanga, and, as a group, they offer a new approach to the reception and history of the Japanese woodblock print. In reproducing in full color the works featured in the exhibition, Dramatic Impressions: Japanese Theatre Prints from the Gilbert Luber Collection offers the reader a handsome visual guide to the genre.