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 $800 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

February 1 to April 30, 2024

La Jolla Presbyterian Church

7715 Draper Ave, La Jolla, CA 92037  Phone: (858) 454-0713

Contact: Karen Sangren


May 1  to December 30, 2023

Highland Park Presbyterian Church

3821 University Blvd, Dallas, TX 75205

(214) 526-7457

Contact person: Lila Marshall   

Sarah Good,


January 15 to  April 15, 2023

First Congregational Church

535 Forest Ave, Glen Elyn  IL.  60137

Contact person: Deb Giampoli


April 25 to October 25, 2023

Highland Park Presbyterian Church

3821 University Blvd, Dallas, TX 75205

(214) 526-7457

Contact person: Lila Marshall


April 1 to August 1, 2022

Orcas Island Community Church

176 Madrona St. PO Box 205

Eastsound, WA 98245

(360) 376-6422

Contact: Brian Moss,


August 15 to December 30, 2022

Belmont University

1900 Belmont Boulevard

Nashville, TN 37212

Contact:  Dr. Todd Lake,

615 460 6628


January 17 to March 3, 2022

Covenant College

14049 Scenic Hwy, Lookout Mountain, GA 30750

Phone: (706) 820-1560

Contact Person: Elissa Weichbrodt


March 10 to August 30, 2021.

St Luke’s Anglican Church

50 Pope Avenue, Hilton Head, SC  29928



Sept 1 to February 28, 2021

All Saints Presbyterian Church

7808 Rialto Blvd.  Austin, TX  78735

Sonya Menges 512-732-8383


January 15, to April 15, 2020

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church

2128 Barton Hills Drive

Austin, TX    78704

Contact: Fr Zac Koons


November 8, 2019 to January 5, 2020

Price Tower Arts Center

510 South Dewey Ave

Bartlesville, OK 74003

918.336.4949 x113

Curator: Deshane Atkins-Williams


January 15 to March 30, 2019

746 S. Saginaw St., Flint, MI 48503

Ed Bradley   (810) 234-8673


 April 10 to July 10, 2019

First Presbyterian Church of Hilton Head

540 William Hilton Parkway

Hilton Head Island, SC 29928

843 681 3696

Contact person: Nancy Millette           


October 25, 2018 – January 8, 2019

St. George’s Nashville

4715 Harding Rd, Nashville, TN 37205

Contact: Laura Zabaski,

615-385-2150 x 242


June 30  to October 10

Wilshire Baptist Church

4316 Abrams Rd

Dallas TX 75214

Mark Wingfield,


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 $600 /month, with a minimum of 4 weeks per venue.
With the rental of two months the third month is free.


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