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Floating Beauty

graphic elements: fans and letters in dark red on a white background.   %22Floating Beauty: Women in the art of Ukiyo-e%22 Januar

Current Exhibition

Floating Beauty: Women in the Art of Ukiyo-e

January 16 - March 10, 2024

“Floating Beauty” examines historical perspectives on women and their depiction in art in Edo Period Japan (1615 - 1858). Through fifty-one woodblock prints created in the ukiyo-e style and an assortment of Japanese cultural objects, this exhibition highlights female characters in literature, kabuki theatre, and poetry; courtesans and geisha; and wives and mothers from different social classes performing the duties of their station, in order to gain some insight into the lives of women in pre-modern Japan.

In the tradition of ukiyo-e, women are most commonly represented in the “bijinga” (pictures of beautiful women) genre. Idealized depictions show elegant female forms in sumptuous layers of patterned kimonos, strolling leisurely through gardens or passing the time in tastefully decorated rooms. These prints would have served as souvenirs of the ephemeral world of the Yoshiwara, the licensed pleasure district of the city of Edo, or modern-day Tokyo.

Looking beyond the “bijinga,” this exhibition shows that women in Edo society were hardworking and industrious individuals. Society scorned idleness in women of all ages, and even high-ranking females were required to perform a litany of tasks. Women were expected to be subservient but not weak; weakness would not run a demanding household or manage business affairs. For those outside of a traditional household role such as the courtesans and geisha of the Yoshiwara, life was even more harsh. Similarly, female literary characters were well-defined and robust, but often did not fare well, eventually falling victim to the devices of men.

The woodblock prints include works by ukiyo-e masters Suzuki Harunobu, Kitagawa Utamaro, Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa Kunisada, Kikugawa Eizan, and Utagawa Hiroshige. The entire exhibition is taken from the permanent collection of the Reading Public Museum in Reading, Pennsylvania, who organized the exhibition.


A woman and a girl dressed in purple, red, and light blue kimonos. A pink and blue fan in upper left corner.

Utagawa Kunisada (Japanese, 1786 – 1865), The Sacred Tree (Sakaki), 1853, ink on paper, 14 3/4 x 10 1/8 inches, Gift, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur G. Bailey, 1957.68.4.4. Reading Public Museum, Reading, Pennsylvania.

photos of musicians: woman in yellow kimono and two men in black kimono

Masayo Ishigure (koto)

Kenneth Hutchinson (shamisen)

Travis Shaver (shakuhachi)

visitors looking at Japanese prints
visitors looking at case displaying wooden shoes, neck rest, and gold stacked meal box
Woman in dark sweater and man in dark shirt looking at Japanese art prints
3 women; one in white coat, two in dark coats looking at framed Japanese art prints
View of audience gathered around Gallery Director for public tour
kimono and obi on stands in foreground; woman with back to viewer talking with Gallery Director

Upcoming Events

Public reception: Thursday, January 18, 5:30-7:00pm

Please join us for a free reception and gallery talk. Light refreshments will be served.

Dr. Lalaine Bangilan Little, Gallery Director, will highlight a selection of objects in the exhibition, drawing from her graduate work in Japanese Early Modern art to provide context. Dr. Little teaches Arts of Asia Pacific as an Adjunct Instructor in the Department of Arts, Film, and Music.

Musical Performance: Thursday, February 15, 7:00pm, Lemmond Theater

In conjunction with this exhibition, the Gallery will be presenting a free performance of traditional and contemporary music on the koto and shamisen by the company of Masayo Ishigure. This free performance will be held on Thursday, February 15, at 7:00pm in Lemmond Theater. Support for this program was provided in part by a Creative Sector Flex Fund Grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, administered in this region by the state’s PPA Partner, Arts in Education NEPA.

Day of Remembrance: Monday, February 19, 2:00-2:45pm, Insalaco Concourse

This observance remembers the forced relocation and incarceration of Americans of Japanese heritage during World War II. Featuring a history of Day of Remembrance by Dr. Allan Austin; Ansel Adams’ Manzanar Relocation Camp Photographic Series by Dr. Lalaine Little; and readings of Japanese-American poetry led by Dr. Becky Steinberger.

Public Tour: Monday, February 19, 6:00pm, Pauly Friedman Art Gallery

We will welcome the NEPA Bonsai Society to the gallery for a free tour of "Floating Beauty" led by Gallery Director Lalaine Little. The general public is welcome to join this tour.

For more details on upcoming events please see our events page.


For more information on any of our exhibitions or programs please contact Gallery Director Lalaine Little,, or call (570) 674-6250. 

Plan your visit

Spring 2024 hours: January 16 to March 10*

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Other times are available by appointment.

*Spring Break Hours March 1 - March 10

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

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March 3

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March 5

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March 10


Closed for reinstallation March 11 to March 3.

In case of inclement weather, calling in advance of your visit is appreciated. Please leave a message at (570) 674-6250 or email to request a free private appointment or tour. All ages welcome.

The gallery is closed during university closings and holidays. Admission is always free to all.  To schedule a free tour or private appointment, or for more information, please contact the Gallery Director Lalaine Little, PhD, at (570) 674-8420 or email 

Off-campus visitors are encouraged to call or email in advance of visit. Please follow us on Instagram (MisericordiArt) or Facebook (PaulyFriedmanArtGallery) for updates, exhibition images, and fun facts!

To schedule a free tour or private appointment, or for more information, please contact Dr. Lalaine Little, by telephone (570) 674-6250 or email, or request a specific time here:

schedule a private visit


  • Page magnifiers are available at the gallery entrance.

Health Guidelines

  • Social distancing of at least 6 ft. between other visitors should be followed.
  • Hand sanitizer, masks, and disinfectant wipes are available at the gallery attendant desk.


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Directions and Location

The galleries are located on the second floor of the Sandy and Marlene Insalaco Hall.

map of campus

Go through arch. Proceed along tree-lined drive until you get to a t-intersection. Turn left. Turn right at the end of the lawn with the flagpole. You'll see a transparent bus shelter to your right. Park anywhere in this lot. From the nearest walkway the library will be to your left and Mercy Hall will be to your right. There will be a tall blue clock in front of the library. The next building straight ahead is Insalaco Hall. The Gallery is located on the second floor of Insalaco Hall. Go up the half flight of stairs or take the elevator to the second floor. The Gallery will be immediately to your right.