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Long recognized as one of the finest collections of Japanese art in private hands, the Mary Griggs Burke Collection is the largest and most comprehensive outside Japan.
"The beauty of the Japanese aesthetic first struck me when I saw my mother's kimono, a padded winter garment of black silk with a bold design of twisted pine branches covered with snow.... I can remember putting it on and letting it trail behind me. It was then, I believe, that a future collector of Japanese art was born."
The woman who wrote these words, Mary Griggs Burke, did indeed go on to become a collector of Japanese art. Thirty years later she visited Japan at the suggestion of the architect Walter Gropius, and "profoundly moved by the beauty of the paintings and sculpture that I saw...I fell in love with Japan." In the 1960s, she and her husband, Jackson, began to form their collection. The Mary Griggs Burke Collection is a testimony to the intensity and selectivity of Mrs. Burke's collecting, guided by a discerning eye, a deep affection for Japan, and an appreciation of the country's cultural heritage. In 1985, the Japanese government invited her to exhibit the collection at the Tokyo National Museum and two years later, in gratitude for her activities in support of Japanese art and all facets of Japanese culture, conferred on her the honorary medal of Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Star, Second Degree, a rare honor for a foreigner to receive.
Mrs. Burke (1916–2012), who assembled her formidable collection of East Asian art over five decades, announced in 2006 that she would bequeath her Japanese and a smaller collection of Korean works to The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA)