Mary and Jackson Burke began collecting Japanese art in the 1960s. The number of artworks they acquired quickly grew, but the Burkes soon realized that if their dream to create an outstanding collection was to come to fruition, an additional entity for supporting this goal should be established. In 1972, the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation was incorporated; its principal purposes, which still govern, are to “operate in the areas of the arts, including the collection of works of art, the exhibition of the same by itself or other organizations . . . by making the same available for inspection and study to educational organizations, the students thereof, and to other organizations . . . and to members of the general public.”
The Foundation’s first board of directors consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Burke; Richard A. Moore and myself, their attorneys; and Orley R. Taylor, their accountant. Mary Griggs Burke served as President of the Foundation from its inception through December 4, 2008. She was then elected Honorary President and served until her death on December 8, 2012; Jackson Burke was Vice President until his death in 1975. C. E. Bayliss Griggs succeeded Mary Burke as President. Current officers, in addition to the undersigned, are Eleanor Briggs, President, and Gale L. Davis, Vice President. The collecting begun by Mr. and Mrs. Burke was continued by the Foundation under the succeeding directors.
Over the years, Mary Burke donated many works of art from her collection to the Foundation. Additional objects were acquired through grants from the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation, and as gifts from others. Most of the objects still owned by Mrs. Burke at her death were bequeathed to the Foundation. Those works, along with those owned by the Foundation, comprise what is now referred to as the Mary Griggs Burke Collection. This assemblage of art objects, which exceeds 1,000 in number, is highlighted in the catalogue and will be distributed to several major museums in the United States.
The Foundation made its first purchase on May 10, 1973: a pair of six-panel folding screens by Kano Sanraku (1559–1635) entitled View of West Lake. The last work of art acquired, following the death of Mary Griggs Burke, is a magnificent pair of early seventeenth-century six-panel folding screens depicting cherry and willow trees against a background of gold leaf. Both works exemplify the quality of the acquisitions aspired to by the Foundation.
The Burke Collection is generally recognized as one of the most important collections of Japanese art in private hands outside of Japan. Through the generosity of Mary Burke, it has been accessible for study by scholars, students, and specialists in the field, as well as to the general public through loans and exhibitions held at museums here and abroad. With the knowledge that the collection would be dispersed in the near future, it was decided that a catalogue should be compiled to illustrate its scope and richness. The current officers and directors of the Foundation wish to honor the leadership of Mary Burke by creating a lasting record of the collection, and this publication is dedicated to her.
This catalogue, which we hope will benefit scholars, students, and collectors alike, would not have been possible without the efforts of Miyeko Murase, who, throughout the years of collecting, worked so closely with Mary Burke. The assistance of her curators, Gratia Williams Nakahashi and Stephanie Wada and their predecessor Andrew Pekarik, has been outstanding and has enabled the collection to thrive.
We want to thank all who were involved in the preparation of these volumes, as it was a time-consuming, arduous process requiring strong scholarship and dedication. We are honored and proud to present this publication reflecting the career of a remarkable and dedicated collector.
Marvin J. Pertzik is Executive Director, Secretary, and Treasurer of Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation