The Art of Sadao Watanabe


On display during October and November in the Square Halo Gallery will be art by Japan’s foremost Christian artist, Sadao Watanabe (1913-1996). Converted from Buddhism to Christianity at 17 years old, he combined his new faith with katazome—the traditional Japanese folk art of stencil dyeing. Each hand cut print was created using a complicated traditional stencil art form formally used for dying kimonos. Watanabe created colorful representation of biblical scenes that he hoped would speak to his people. He clothed all the biblical characters in the Japanese dress of kimonos. Noah’s Ark looks like a Japanese cricket cage filled with a menagerie of animals. He depicted the Last Supper with a spread of fish and sake, and the Wedding at Cana with a declawed lobster—all familiar traditional foods of his people.


His prints are part of many international collections including the Vatican Museum, National Galleries in Washington, DC and London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo.


The art on display during this exhibit will not be for sale, but the book Beauty Given by Grace: The Biblical Prints of Sadao Watanabe will be available. A short lecture about the art of Watanabe will be presented by the gallery’s curator on October’s First Friday. Can’t make it out on First Friday? The lecture and exhibit are available during October and November to school groups or church gatherings by special appointment—simply email