Witness to Faith:

The Biblical Art of Sadao Watanabe

Japan’s foremost Christian artist, Sadao Watanabe (1913-1996) converted from Buddhism to Christianity at 17 years old. He soon combined his new faith with an interest in preserving the traditional Japanese folk art of stencil dying, or katazome, by creating colorful representation of biblical scenes that he hoped would speak to his people. He said, ‘My task is to stand within the artistic tradition of Japan…Theology will not take deep root in Japanese soil if it is merely an import.”


Within the framework of his Christian faith he was able to translate the biblical narratives into Japanese settings, thereby giving them broad resonance. Each hand cut print has been created using a complicated traditional stencil art form formally used for dying kimonos. 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.


Watanabe was less concerned with representing visual reality than with finding ways to communicate his Christian beliefs to other Japanese. The result is a body of art that is an expression of deep faith as well as a valuable contribution to the history of Christian art. 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.


Watanabe’s fame notwithstanding, the artist’s chief desire was to create art that could be enjoyed by common people and displayed in ordinary settings. Witness to Faith hopes to help fulfill his wishes by offering for view some of his original momigami (wrinkled paper) and washi (Japanese paper) prints, calendars that have been printed since the early 1970s, and stencil Christmas cards he made for friends. May these be a true Witness to Faith.


The exhibition's artwork includes

  • Old Testament (4)
  • New Testament (21)
  • Other: Calendars (5) and Christmas cards (10)

I owe my life to Christ and the gospel. My way of expressing my gratitude is to witness to my faith through the medium of biblical scenes.


This show contains:


  • File with high-resolution images of all works in the show
  • File with text for labels
  • File for Introduction panels
  • Information on unpacking and repacking show
  • Information on shipping the exhibition


Cost of rental is $500 per month (plus shipping). There is a two-month minimum. With the rental of two months the third month is free.

Bowden Collections offers a variety of traveling exhibitions available to museums, churches, colleges and seminaries: several feature the work of important historical artists such as Georges Rouault, Marc Chagall, Ottos Dix and Alfred Manessier; others explore topics related to the Bible. A packet containing everything needed to mount the exhibition with files for labels, itemized lists, a brochure or flyer in PDF format, high-resolution digital files of art in the exhibition, and shipping information is provided. Venues are responsible for the rental fee and shipping, usually to the following venue.

New Testament

Old Testament

New Testament

Calendars and Christmas Cards

Exhibitions of this Collection

January 1 to March 30, 2019

746 S. Saginaw St., Flint, MI 48503

Ed Bradley   (810) 234-8673


October 25, 2018 – January 8, 2019

St. George’s Nashville

4715 Harding Rd, Nashville, TN 37205

Contact: Laura Zabaski,

615-385-2150 x 242


October 1 to December 31, 2017

Theology and Ministry Library, Boston College

117 Lake Street, Brighton, MA 02135

Contact Esther Griswold, head librarian  



March 15 to June 15, 2017

The Grantham BIC Church

421 Grantham Road, Mechanicsburg, PA 17055

Office (717) 766-0531

Geoff Isley:


December 10, 2016 to March 10, 2017:

Church at Charlotte

2500 Carmel Road

Charlotte, NC 28226


Contact: Carrie Givens





The show rents for $500 /month, with a minimum of 4 weeks per venue.
With the rental of two months the third month is free.

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