Karen Gerhart | History of Art and Architecture | University of Pittsburgh
History of Art and Architecture

Karen Gerhart


Area of Specialization

Japanese Art History


Past PhD(s): Shalmit Bejarano, Naoko Gunji, Susan Zitterbart, Yuki Morishima, Sara Sumpter, Jungeun Lee, Elizabeth Self; See a listing of Past PhDs for details

Constellation(s): Agency

Professor Gerhart’s research and teaching encompass a wide range of topics in the history of art and architecture in pre-modern Japan. Her research interests are in the relationship between art and social function, and art and ritual. Recent book publications include The Material Culture of Death in Medieval Japan (2009) and The Eyes of Power: Art and Early Tokugawa Authority  (1999) and articles on the influence of Chinese iconography, issues of patronage and travel, and the use of images in ritual context. She has presented numerous papers at professional meetings, including the Association of Asian Studies and the College Art Association. She teaches both undergraduate courses and topically organized graduate seminars; recent offerings include Japanese Landscape Painting, Portraits and Rituals in East Asia, and Ancient Japan.

Education Details

PhD, University of Kansas

Selected Publications

The Material Culture of Death in Medieval Japan.  Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2009.

Visions of the Dead: Kano Tan'yu's Paintings of Tokugawa Iemitsu's Dreams,” Monumenta Nipponica vol. 59, no. 1 (Spring 2004): 1–34.

“Classical Imagery and Tokugawa Patronage: A Redefinition in the Seventeenth Century,” pp. 169–186. In Elizabeth Lillehoj, ed., Critical Perspectives on Classicism in Japanese Painting, 1600–1700. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2004.

"Talent, Training, and Power: The Kano Painting Workshop in the Seventeenth Century," pp. 9–30; 189–194. In Brenda Jordan and Victoria Weston, eds., Copying the Master and Stealing His Secrets: Talent and Training in Japanese Painting. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2003.

"Kano Tan'yû: ryôhô no gakka," Bijutsu Forum 5 (Winter 2001): 33–39. [in Japanese]

"Issues of Talent and Training in the Seventeenth-Century Kano Workshop." Ars Orientalis (2001) 31: 103–128.

"Kano Tan'yû and Hôrin Jôshô: Patronage and Artistic Practice." Monumenta Nipponica 55 (Winter 2000) 4: 483–508.

The Eyes of Power: Art and Early Tokugawa Authority. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999.

Selected Awards

Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellowship

Japan Foundation Research Fellowship

Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art Studies Research Grant

Northeast-Asia Council Short-term Research Travel to Japan Grant

Current Projects

Gerhart is currently working on reconstructing the death practices and associated visual culture of women in medieval Japan, using primary texts and surviving works of art and architecture dating primarily to the 14th and 15th centuries.