Reality in Japanese art

Some museums have such fine reputations that anything they do is bound to create interest. Should that be a major exhibition on a subject particularly dear to such a museum, interest will mount. And if the exhibition is organized by a world-renowned scholar and curator whose specialty is the subject of the show, the art world will most certainly be in attendance.

The Cleveland Museum of Art is such a museum, its current ''Reflections of Reality in Japanese Art'' is such a show, and Sherman E. Lee is such a scholar-curator. Together they've assembled an exhibition I'm certain will be acclaimed one of the highlights of this art season.

I say I'm certain even though I haven't had the opportunity as yet to see it. I have, however, read extensively about its contents, and have seen photographs of some of its major items. I'm convinced, as a result, that it's a beautiful and major show.

It consists of more than 100 paintings and nearly 30 sculptures from the archaeological age to the 19th century. Most are from major temples, shrines, museums, and private collections in Japan. Included are nine works designated as National Treasures of Japan, and more than 50 designated as Important Cultural Properties. The balance come from American collections.

Of particular interest are quick, incisive sketches from nature, long narrative hand scrolls, uncompromising portraits, and detailed landscapes. All reflect the Japanese artist's curiosity about the world, his acceptance of its appearance, and his wish to describe ''things as they really are.''

At the Cleveland Museum of Art through May 1.

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