Archive for ‘Artists’

November 6, 2012

Japanese art and Keisai Eisen: Reality and unreality and the View of Shogetsu Pond

Japanese art and Keisai Eisen: Reality and unreality and the View of Shogetsu Pond

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

If one views the stunning image of the View of Shogetsu Pond by Keisai Eisen, then only images of tranquility, order and a nation at peace comes to mind. It appears that nature, order and a majestic rural life fits smoothly together. Therefore, one can easily depict an image of idealism whereby nature and humanity blend together.

Likewise, if we take this image by itself and try to analyze the artist from such a scenic piece of art, then it would appear that the artist was at peace with himself. After all, buildings are in the background and the natural towering strength of the mountains in the distance seems to imply order and control. Also, the individuals in this piece of art seem in a natural order and the same applies to the pond, trees and every single aspect of the View of Shogetsu Pond.

However, looks can easily be deceiving because the artist Keisai Eisen faced many demons related to drink and owning a brothel. This reality seems a million miles away from the delightful scenery of the View of Shogetsu Pond.

Yet, Keisai Eisen was also known for wit and one never really knows how deep his drinking was. Likewise, was the brothel the “real deal” or something that the artist played up in order to generate rumors and whispers? In this sense, just like the image of the View of Shogetsu Pond, it is clear that many things are a mirage in life but often people change mirages and believe that they are true.

Or, it could just be that Keisai Eisen was disillusioned with the trappings of life. Therefore, this piece of art represents a distant desire within his soul. Yet, of course this is nothing more than pure speculation. In saying that, it is speculation which the artist would appreciate because he was blessed with so many talents related to art and writing.

Keisai Eisen once stated that he was “…a hard-drinking, rather dissolute artist.” This statement is clearly a mirage to reality. After all, Keisai Eisen was blessed with so many skills in the field of art and writing. He clearly knew that many individuals thought highly about his skills and this statement suits the wit of this amazing artist.

Turning back to the brothel comment then it is factual that this type of business did exist in Nezu, Tokyo. Yet, the reasons related to the usage and the role of Keisai Eisen remains debatable. Many individuals have stated various statements about the reality of this brothel. However, these comments are often conflicting. Therefore, speculation remains the order of the day with regards to the true nature of his role in this brothel.

It also could be that the View of Shogetsu Pond by Keisai Eisen lacked any real meaning to the artist. Yet, if you view this one majestic piece of art by itself, then it is nice to dream and think deeply. In this sense, the image and nature of Keisai Eisen represent the mirages of life whereby individuals try to understand the bigger picture. However, in the distance of time, then does the bigger picture mean anything?

http://www.viewingjapaneseprints.net/texts/ukiyoetexts/ukiyoe_pages/eisen3.html 

http://www.artelino.com/articles/keisai-eisen.asp 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com 

http://moderntokyotimes.com 

November 6, 2012

Japanese art, culture and the Yamabushi: Benkei and the loyal warrior monk

Japanese art, culture and the Yamabushi: Benkei and the loyal warrior monk

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In Japanese culture, history and art, it is clear that Saito no Musashibo Benkei left a lasting impression and this continues today in modern culture. This legendary warrior monk belonged to the intriguing period of the 12th century. He was born in 1155 and died in 1189 after serving the famous Minamoto no Yoshitsune.  The images in this article come from the esteemed toshidama (Toshidama Gallery), whereby you can feel the power of Benkei and visually understand how he was portrayed in Japanese art.

Benkei is famous within the folklore of Japan because of his enormous strength which was matched by great loyalty. In the realm of Japanese art and the majestic ukiyo-e movement, then Benkei provides a wealth of images by many famous artists.

It is noted that he was extremely tall because by the age of seventeen Benkei had reached two meters in height. This is still very tall by the standard of today. On top of this was many other great attributes which belong to his fighting skills and the knowledge he obtained during his travels to many Buddhist monasteries.

Of course, within Japanese folklore and the mysteries of history and Shintoism, then many intriguing stories evolve around Benkei. He firmly belongs to the power and prestige of Buddhism and the warrior class that emerged during this period of Japanese history. However, just like Judaism, Christianity and Islam have all been influenced by the Pagan culture where they developed; this similarly happened to Benkei because the power of Shintoism was fused within many elements of Japanese Buddhism and folklore. Therefore, these intriguing stories about Benkei clearly have survived the test of time because he remains a potent figure today in modern Japan.

Much depends on the Benkei which appeals to the storyteller but within Japanese art and the tradition of ukiyo-e; it is clear that the term Oniwaka is merged within the nature of this famous warrior monk. Oniwaka means the “demon or ogre child.” Of course, many other fascinating stories evolve around Benkei including his deeds on the battlefield. For example, it is stated that he defeated at least 200 military men during major battles throughout his life. This of course may be exaggerated or it may not; yet the point is that his fame within the warrior class appealed greatly when judged with his great physical strength and the loyalty that bestowed him throughout his lifetime.

It is also reported that Benkei in time became a yamabushi (mountain warrior monk) and for this reason he is often depicted in a cap. This fits in well with the yamabushi who had many fine qualities. After all, the yamabushi were not only mighty warriors who were blessed with respective supernatural powers. Equally important, was the ascetic nature of the yamabushi and the exemplary knowledge they held related to the Shugendo doctrine.

The Shugendo doctrine evolved around the fusions and integration of many powerful thought patterns. This applies to the school of Shingon Buddhism and the esoteric nature of this faith, the rich heritage of Shinto, the Tendai Buddhist faith and the great philosophy of Taoism. Therefore, the yamabushi were not just mysterious holy men who had mighty powers in the area of military strength; but equally powerful was the knowledge that each individual had obtained in this world and how they utilized this with the mystery of nature.

His loyalty remains famous today and the Toshidama Gallery sums up Benkei extremely well when it comes to the loyalty of this esteemed individual. Toshidama states that “…he was raised by monks who were both religious and military. As a young man he positioned himself at one end of Gojo Bridge and disarmed travelers of their swords. On reaching his 999th sword he fought with a young nobleman, Minamoto no Yoshitsune, who won the battle of the bridge and thereafter Benkei served as his principal retainer. They fought in the Gempei Wars between the Taira clan and their own Minamoto clan.”

If you are intrigued about Benkei then this article is providing just a snippet of the importance of Benkei within many aspects of Japanese culture, history and folklore.

http://www.toshidama-japanese-prints.com/item_473/Toshihide-Portraits-of-Sansho–Ichikawa-Danjuro-IX-as-Benkei-1893.htm

http://www.toshidama-japanese-prints.com/item_391/Kunisada-Benkei-and-Yoshitsune-fighting-on-Gojo-Bridge.htm

http://www.toshidama-japanese-prints.com/item_237/Kunisada-Portrait-of-Benkei.htm

http://www.toshidama-japanese-prints.com/item_246/Yoshitaki-Benkei-and-Yoshitsune-at-Gojo-Bridge.htm

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

September 6, 2012

Japanese ukiyo-e art and modern ladies in traditional dress

Japanese ukiyo-e art and modern ladies in traditional dress

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Ukiyo-e art in Japan focused on many themes during its “golden period” in the Edo period and carried on into the Meiji era. The world of Japan comes alive visually within many areas of ukiyo-e art because of the subjects covered. It matters not if this art applied to the rich cultural aspects of Japan or the floating world which was truly dramatic.

Sometimes in modern Tokyo and throughout Japan you will see ladies in traditional Japanese clothes during special occasions. When this happens it is often like “looking into a mirror of ukiyo-e” and seeing “a ghost from the past” but which is truly part of the modern world.

This in itself highlights the richness of ukiyo-e in the field of showing traditional ladies in their splendid best. It is also evidence that while Japan is ultra modern, the old world remains powerful even if within “mirages” of the original meaning. Either way, if based on tradition or “mirages,” it is still a noteworthy connection with the past.

Ogata Gekko produced many stunning images of elegant ladies posing in tradition dress. Of course, countless other amazing ukiyo-e artists also focused on the same theme. Therefore, the richness of ukiyo-e art depicts many images of art related to women and this applies to high culture, erotic art (shunga), beautiful ladies (bijinga), ghosts and other themes.

In an earlier article by myself which was published in Modern Tokyo Times I state that “The real power in these images, I believe, applies to simplicity and how space, time, cultural richness and modern Japanese women were being portrayed. Indeed, the ideal image in a sense can still be seen in modern Japan when ladies dress in traditional styles. This can be seen clearly because a lot of thought, high quality materials, color schemes and other important areas are connecting with the images which Ogata Gekko is showing.”

The world of Ogata Gekko witnessed many changes because of the onset of modernity but if he was to come back today, then he would witness glimpses of the old world. Likewise, Torii Kiyonaga (1752-1815) excelled in the area of bijinga because of his amazing details and intricacies.

Torii Kiyonaga is one of the many amazing artists who belonged to the Torii school of art. He emphasized many aspects of women and traditional dress. This applies to high culture, stratification, sexuality, morality, natural elegance, shunga, bijinga and other areas. The art of Torii Kiyonaga is widely appreciated and when viewing his art related to bijinga and seeing a modern lady in traditional dress in Japan, it is easy to connect both together.

Torii Kiyonaga also highlighted exquisite color schemes and amazing embroidery. This aspect of his art would fit in naturally within elegant boutiques in modern day Japan. The special detail and attention given by this amazing artist meant that he depicted elegant and refined ladies, who look extremely beautiful. Therefore, during special occasions in modern day Japan you can see aspects of the world of ukiyo-e artists in relation to traditional Japanese dress.

In places like the Meiji shrine in Harajuku and sophisticated parts of Japan which focus on tradition like Kyoto, Nara, Nikko and many other parts of this fascinating nation. You can peer into the world of ukiyo-e artists, areas of bijinga and ladies in traditional dress. The ghosts of the past therefore remain within “a living tradition” which comes alive during special occasions, or in specific parts of Japan where high culture and tradition remains strong.

 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com  

September 6, 2012

Japanese art and Utagawa Yoshitaki: Oni Demon and the dreaded Catfish (Namazu)

Japanese art and Utagawa Yoshitaki: Oni Demon and the dreaded Catfish (Namazu)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Utagawa Yoshitaki (1841-1899) produced several stunning pieces of art related to the oni demon. In the main image in this article called the Oni Demon and Catfish you have two very powerful forces at play. Therefore, the individual in this image faces the wrath of the giant catfish and the clutches of the powerful oni which is intent on collecting souls to take to the pits of hell.

In Japanese folklore the powerful writhing of a giant catfish (namazu) was bad news based on mythology. Thenamazu is a harbinger of devastation when breaking free from the god Kashima.

Therefore, when the namazu escapes from the clutches of Kashima terrible devastating forces are unleashed. These brutal forces apply to potent earthquakes and tsunamis which kill untold numbers. In the world of ukiyo-e the namazu and oni were popular subjects to focus on when highlighting Japanese folklore in the Edo and Meiji periods of history. After all, the oni and namazu are great storytellers and the reality that Japan is blighted by tsunamis, earthquakes, typhoons and other potent natural forces; means that in the old world of mystery it did appear that demonic forces were at play.

The role of the oni in the folklore of Japan is very potent because when the gates of hell are opened then the power of this demon comes into play for people who have done “dark deeds” in this world. Japanese artists in the Edo period clearly highlight the oni and the same applies to Japanese literature and kabuki. Therefore, Yoshitaki in his art piece titled Oni Demon and Catfish is putting the person in the scene in a terrible dilemma.

Toshidama Gallery comments about this image that “This print tells a complex narrative. The figure on the left holds a giant gourd – this was known to be one of the few magical ways to quell the much feared catfish which in the print is lying compliantly underneath. The legends of Japan say that earthquakes and tsunamis are caused by the writhing of a giant catfish (namazu) under Fuji. There were popular prints of the quelling of the catfish (Namazu-e) which appeared after natural disasters such as the Ansei earthquake of 1855.”

In this stunning image by Yoshitaki it is clear that the namazu appears unconcerned by the individuals attempt to quell the power it holds according to Japanese folklore. The oni on the other hand looks angry and powerful. It could just be that the namazu knows that the oni is too much for this brave individual who is trying to stop calamity from happening. Therefore, an almost like smirk face persists on the namazu and it could be that theoni is impatient because he wants to collect souls to take to the pits of hell.

Of course, an image by itself is always open to major interpretation but sometimes singular images can be more potent because of this fact. According to some individuals the catfish actually does behave strangely before natural disasters. This fact means that the god Kashima must be alert at all times according to Japanese folklore but sadly the namazu can’t be contained indefinitely because just like the oni, the namazu is extremely cunning.

https://twitter.com/Toshidama  TOSHIDAMA GALLERY 

Please visit http://toshidama.wordpress.com for more articles and information. 

Please visit http://toshidama-japanese-prints.com/  –   On our site you will see a wonderful selection of Japanese woodblock prints for sale. Ukiyo-e (the Japanese name for woodblock prints of the 18th and 19th centuries) are beautiful, collectible and a sound financial investment.

http://www.toshidama-japanese-prints.com/item_428/Yoshitaki-Oni-Demon-and-Catfish.htm

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

September 6, 2012

Japanese Art and Ukiyo-e: Ghost of Koheiji by Konishi Hirosada and Evil Akuba

Japanese Art and Ukiyo-e: Ghost of Koheiji by Konishi Hirosada and Evil Akuba

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The power of the Shinto faith runs deep throughout the fabric of Japanese religion, folklore, culture and other important aspects of society. Buddhism which emanated from outside of Japan would also greatly impact itself within the fabric of society. Modern Japan in major cities may look a million miles away from the richness of Japanese folklore but remnants remain. In the countryside the old world survives much more easily but throughout the veins of Japanese tradition major festivals keep aspects of old Japan alive within major cities even if diluted.

Of course, you will have many living religious places of worship throughout major cities in Japan but the mystery can be felt stronger in the “still night” of the countryside whereby local shrines have so much power. Not surprisingly, with the two dominant faiths having so much richness then ghosts, demons and the underworld played a powerful role in Japanese folklore.

This in turn expressed itself through Japanese art, plays and literature. In the world of ukiyo-e many amazing artists depicted ghosts, demons and the underworld. Also, the power of Japanese culture and the indigenous Shinto faith impacted greatly on Buddhism. This means that many fusions have crossed over between the faiths of Shinto and Buddhism. Indeed, the mystery of the Shinto faith is its openness, diversity, blending naturally within nature and the richness of local traditions which vary from place to place.

Konishi Hirosada (Gosotei Hirosada) produces a stunning image of the ghost of Koheiji (top image in the article) which seeks revenge towards his wife Otowa and her devious lover. Koheiji is brutally tortured and murdered by Otowa with the hands of her lover to blame within many realms. This applies to psychology and a very twisted crime of passion induced by strong emotions between both scheming individuals. The pain of the torture and betrayal was brutally shocking and clearly Koheiji couldn’t enter the next world because his spirit was restless for revenge.

The Toshidama Gallery comments about the print by Konishi Hirosada that “This is a very fine and rare print by the Osaka artists Konishi Hirosada. It depicts the ghost of Kohata Koheiji who, having been tortured and drowned by his unfaithful wife Otowa and her scheming lover, takes revenge upon them from beyond the grave. Koheiji is played by the kabuki actor Arashi Rikaku II. Revenge plays of this sort were hugely popular and often depicted evil women called akuba. This play, A Mysterious Tale of Revenge at Asaka Marsh, was so popular with audiences that a sequel was commissioned.”

Toshidama Gallery further comments that “A strange twist, given the subject of this role, is that the actor portrayed here, Arashi Rikaku II, was the adoptive father of Arashi Rikaku III, himself imprisoned for his part in the poisoning (of) his lover’s mistress. His lover, Yoarashi Okinu, was what audiences would refer to as an akuba. She administered the poison after becoming pregnant by Rikaku. She was eventually arrested in May 1871 and decapitated in 1872.”

Clearly Koheiji was unlucky to have married an akuba lady because these ladies would do anything for the people they love. Extortion and murder, and other acts of betrayal, were part and parcel of being an akubalady. However, the spirit of Koheiji was too strong because he desired vengeance from the underworld and refused to enter either heaven or hell until he fulfilled this.

The power of ghost stories in the Edo and Meiji periods of Japanese history were cherished because of the strong connection of faith and the power of the stories that were portrayed. At the same time amazing ukiyo-e artists could depict the vastness of this world.

 

http://www.toshidama-japanese-prints.com/item_352/Hirosada-Arashi-Rikaku-II-as-the-ghost-of-Koheiji.htm

http://www.toshidama-japanese-prints.com/item_261/Hirosada-The-Ghost-of-Togoros-Wife.htm

http://www.toshidama-japanese-prints.com/item_177/Hirosada-Kasa-Ippon-ashi-One-Legged-Umbrella-Demon.htm

http://www.toshidama-japanese-prints.com/

http://toshidama.wordpress.com/

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

August 9, 2012

Pola Museum of Art in stunning Hakone: Picasso and the Pola Collection

Pola Museum of Art in stunning Hakone: Picasso and the Pola Collection

Sarah Deschamps and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Pola Museum of Art (http://www.polamuseum.or.jp/english/in stunning Hakone is once more providing another beautiful collection to enjoy. This delightful and cultural museum is following on from the last beautiful exhibition which highlighted The Development of Impressionism: Monet, Renoir, and the Next Generations. Therefore, while this exhibition is now finished you now have another stunning exhibition titledPicasso and the Pola Collection (1st Period) which runs between July 14 and October 2, 2012.

If individuals have never been to Hakone then this place is truly magical and within reasonable distance from Tokyo. Indeed, for people who reside in Japan then visiting once isn’t enough because you have so many options available.

This applies to the stunning views which can be witnessed in all directions. The amazing natural beauty of the countryside and spectacular views of Mount Fuji from various vantage points is a wonder to behold. On top of this is the cultural side to Hakone because you have so many different galleries and cultural themes to visit. Therefore, Hakone is a place to enjoy the beautiful mountain landscapes and to connect with Japanese culture.

In total you have three exhibitions being linked together but which will be exhibited at different times. The second exhibition is called Monet and the Pola Collection (2nd Period) which runs from October 5, 2012 to February 26, 2013. This will be followed by the final and third exhibition titled Sugiyama Yasushi and the Pola Collection (3rd Period) which will be held from March 1, 2013 to July 7, 2013.

The binding theme of all three exhibitions is Suzuki Tsuneshi (1930-2000). This can be seen by the title called Looking for Beauty: Art Collector Suzuki Tsuneshi. In total Suzuki Tsuneshi graced the world of art by collecting countless stunning pieces of art over a period of 40 years.

On the Pola Museum of Art website it is stated that Suzuki Tsuneshi (1930 – 2000), son of the founder of Pola Orbis Group, assembled the works in the Pola Museum of Art collection over a period of 40 years. In all, there are around 9500 works, representing a range of genres, including modern European painting, modern Japanese Western-style painting, contemporary nihonga (Japanese-style painting), prints, sculpture, Oriental ceramics, modern and contemporary Japanese ceramics, glasswork, and cosmetic utensils.”

“The Pola Museum of Art collection, recognized as the largest, in both diversity and quality, by a Japanese post-war private collector, was created almost entirely by Suzuki Tsuneshi, a reserved person who talked little about the artworks or his collecting activities. Since the Museum’s opening, we have been interacting with the collection and making efforts to understand the artistic sense of this unassuming man. By analyzing works that strongly relate to Suzuki as an individual and as a public figure, this 10th anniversary exhibition aims to explore how Suzuki built up the collection. Further, the exhibition introduces cultural activities Suzuki Tsuneshi engaged in.”

The exhibition titled Picasso and the Pola Collection (1st Period) highlights the work of various fabulous artists who have blessed the art world. A partial list of artists highlighted in this exhibition applies to Pablo Picasso, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Okada Saburosuke, Georges Seurat, Sugiyama Yasushi, Emile Galle, Oka Shikanosuke, Henri Rousseau, Odilon Redon, Georges Henri Rouault, Maurice de Vlaminck, Kees van Dongen, Maurice Utrillo, Leonard Foujita, Oguiss Takanori, Kishida Ryusei and others.

It is clear by the list above that you have a rich mixture of Japanese and Western artists. Also, the different styles are another attraction and clearly Oka Shikanosuke and Henri Rousseau flow naturally together. Therefore, the exhibition is a must place to visit for people who adore art.

Also, within the museum you can eat delicious European cuisine and enjoy the stunning scenery. For individuals who prefer something more casual then people can enjoy tea, coffee and snacks. Another added bonus is the Museum Shop which is a lovely place to browse around and buy delightful products.

In another article about the beautiful nature of Hakone and the cultural angle of this amazing place it was stated by Modern Tokyo Times that “Hakone is situated in the Fuji Hakone Izu National Park and the entire region is a tourist paradise whereby stunning nature is in all directions and you have so many cultural treasures to view. This notably applies to the Narukawa Art Museum for modern Japanese paintings; the Hakone Open Air Museum; the Pola Museum of Art; Venetian Glass Museum; Suzuhiro Corp. Kamaboko Museum; volcanically active Owakudani geysers; Hakone Botanical Garden of Wetlands; Odawara Castle Donjon; Local History Museum; Museum of Saint Exupery and the Little Pince in Hakone; Hakone Old Takaido Road Museum; Hakone Mononofu-no-Sato Art Museum; Hakone Art Museum; Honma Yosegi Museum; Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History; and you have a wealth of parks and special walks to go on.” 

If individuals are lucky then it is highly recommended to stay for a few days in beautiful Hakone and enjoy the best of stunning nature and the array of culture provided. Of course, the Pola Museum of Art is a must place to visit because of the delightful exhibitions they provide. Also, the express train from Tokyo to Hakone doesn’t take so long and the Odakyu Train Group provides a fantastic transport service if you buy a special pass.

http://www.polamuseum.or.jp/english/index.php  Pola Museum of Art

http://moderntokyotimes.com/2012/02/29/japan-tourism-and-culture-hakone-jinja-historical-treasure-museum-and-mount-fuji/

 

Images in this article relate to the artists who will be highlighted and not to any specific art pieces which will be part of the exhibition.  Please view the website of the Pola Museum of Art to find out more.

July 13, 2012

Japanese art and Yumeji Takehisa: Radiant artist crushed by humanity

Japanese art and Yumeji Takehisa: Radiant artist crushed by humanity

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In all nation states you have elites which control and often abuse power based on “special interests” and “secrecy.” Many individuals feel like “fodder” because so many dreams never materialize for the majority of people. This is the reality of life because justice is but a word and democracy without economic freedom is shallow. Likewise, the daily grind of paying taxes to governments which abuse the system based on various agendas is not only frustrating, it also destroys the spirit of many.

However, for individuals blessed with so much talent then these internal convulsions can unbalance and destroy artists because of the countless “false dawns.” Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin are prime examples. They both were blessed with so much talent but the system crushed them and made life extremely uncomfortable. Therefore, in time capitalists got rich on the labor of two individuals blighted by poverty and extreme dark moments.

While Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin faced their internal demons the same reality would also crush the world of Yumeji Takehisa. From radiance to despair, from hope and desire to abandonment and being disillusioned. In the end the final years of Yumeji Takehisa were filled with sorrow and internal alienation based on expectations which his art deserved. Yet the pathway of Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin awaited Yumeji Takehisa.

Paul Gauguin stated “without art there is no salvation” but even in death the “salvation” is mixed for this individual. Likewise, for Yumeji Takehisa even in death you still don’t have any real “salvation” when it applies to international recognition. However, death provided “salvation” for Vincent Van Gogh in its entirety when it applies to international esteem. For Paul Gauguin who was extremely sophisticated, this would have been enough but he remains blighted by aspects of his life which seems to linger when it is often forgotten when related to others.

Yumeji Takehisa died at the age of 49 in 1934 and clearly “the beautiful flower within” was gradually crushed during the final decade of his life on this earth. Likewise, his visit to America and Europe in 1931 didn’t deliver the results that he had hoped for. Indeed, if anything, it confirmed to him that he was “running against the grain” because his artist skills went unrewarded. Therefore, the international recognition that he craved for went unrewarded internationally despite being recognized by lay people in Japan.

On his return to Japan in 1933 he would soon enter a sanatorium because of ill health. The following year he would die in a sanatorium at the age of 49 and one can only imagine the helplessness and frustration that he felt. After all, even when Yumeji Takehisa gave everything to “open the eyes of the art world” he was still rejected. This was the same rejection within academia in Japan despite being popular with art lovers in this country. Not only was his determination in vain but to make matters worse his health deteriorated. This all happened while Yumeji Takehisa was trying to enlighten people within the international community.

Yumeji Takehisa had rebuilt so much after the 1923 Kanto earthquake which destroyed so much of his artwork. However, he bore this with great fortitude because he knew that vast numbers of people had lost so much more because so many people were killed by this tragic event. Indeed, Yumeji Takehisa was a prolific artist because he produced more than 3,000 pieces of art. Also, the poetic nature of Yumeji Takehisa meant that he was blessed with great innovation.

Sabine Schenk (Cultural News) states about his lack of recognition (Cultural News) that “The reason for this is that he didn’t fit the academic definition of fine arts during his active period from the 1900s to the 1930s, and that his work is not restricted to visual arts only, but ranges from painting, through all kinds of commercial arts, to poetry.”

Sabine Schenk further comments that “It is not easy to categorize him and outside of Japan he has not been recognized as part of the history of fine arts and, therefore, has not been the subject of detailed research, yet.”

Therefore, despite knowing artists of esteem in Japan during his lifetime and being popular outside of academia in the land of the rising sun, it is clear that his desire failed within the academic world and internationally. Even today you can’t find a great deal of research about Yumeji Takehisa and his name doesn’t ring a bell for the vast majority of art lovers internationally. Therefore, even in death “there is no salvation” for Yumeji Takehisa despite producing many stunning pieces of art. In time, it appears that apart from art lovers within Japan that his art will “not even become a shadow.”

http://www.culturalnews.com/?p=539 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com 

http://moderntokyotimes.com 

July 13, 2012

Pierre Bonnard and Japanese art: powerful thought patterns of Bonnard

Pierre Bonnard and Japanese art: powerful thought patterns of Bonnard

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Pierre Bonnard was born in 1867 in France which was one year before the Meiji Restoration in Japan. His father had hoped that Bonnard would become a barrister but clearly Bonnard was destined for the art world. In the early 1890s Bonnard met the enigmatic Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and throughout this decade his art would develop greatly.

Bonnard stated that “The artist who paints the emotions creates an enclosed world… the picture… which, like a book, has the same interest no matter where it happens to be. Such an artist, we may imagine, spends a great deal of time doing nothing but looking, both around him and inside him.” 

In 1890 it is reported that Bonnard truly came into touch with Japanese art despite first admiring this art form from the late 1880s. From this point onwards the richness of Japanese ukiyo-e remained within his artistic soul. Therefore, Bonnard would collect Japanese art throughout the rest of his lifetime. It must be stated that Japonisme (Japonism) was in vogue in the later part of the nineteenth century within powerful artistic circles. However, the first notable period of the growing influence of Japanese art within the Western artistic consciousness can be traced back to the 1860s. In saying that, the development of Japonism was exceptionally powerful in the last three decades of the nineteenth century.

Other artists who adored Japanese ukiyo-e includes Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Pierre Auguste-Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Mary Cassatt, and many other artists including James Abbot McNeill Whistler. Therefore, Bonnard was following in the footsteps of many artists outside of Japan who fell in love with the rich traditions of ukiyo-e.

Bonnard stated that “Painting has to get back to its original goal, examining the inner lives of human beings.” He also commented that Art will never be able to exist without nature” and that “You cannot possibly invent painting all by yourself.”

Bonnard was a member of an important artistic group during the most formative years of his art. This group was called Nabis which means prophet in the Hebrew language. Other significant members of Nabis include Maurice Denis and Edouard Vuillard. The artists within this group were inspired by new thinking and approaches to art. Therefore, a more personal and extremely decorative style was “set in stone” within an abstract style which was most rewarding.

The nickname of Bonnard highlights the power of Japanese ukiyo-e because he was called the “le Nabi tres Japonard.” It is clear that this nickname was cherished by Bonnard because it means “the ultra-Japanese Nabi.” His art studio also was further evidence of the power of ukiyo-e because individuals who visited him noted paintings by Hiroshige, Kunisada and Kuniyoshi.

Bonnard like Paul Gauguin and other notable artists was a deep thinker. He commented to Henri Mattisse that‘I agree with you that the painter’s only solid ground is the palette and colors, but as soon as the colors achieve an illusion, they are no longer judged, and the stupidities begin’ — stupidities, such as worrying about the correctness of a reflection?”

If “a reflection” of the art work of Bonnard is going to be focused on then the “reflection of Japanese art” can’t be ignored. Of course, just like the Nabi group and his deep thinking towards art, no single event or artistic movement can describe Bonnard. He was a free thinker during his youth and clearly Japanese art was one aspect of this rich artist who was blessed with amazing artistic skills. Likewise, the influence of Paul Gauguin and Stephane Mallarme, who was a Symbolist poet, entered his consciousness but Bonnard was never interested in following any concept which constrained his approach to art.

Bonnard stated that …when I and my friends adopted the Impressionists’ color programme in order to build on it we wanted to go beyond naturalistic color impressions – art, however, is not nature – We wanted a more rigorous composition. There was also so much more to extract from color as a means of expression. But developments ran ahead, society was ready to accept Cubism and Surrealism before we had reached what we had viewed as our ami…In a way we found ourselves hanging in mid air…”

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art responds to the above comment by stating that “Thus, the irony was that Impressionism was both a starling point and a trap for Bonnard. Yet it is acknowledged that Bonnard was not hostile to modern developments in art, rather he simply absorbed what he needed for his own experiments with color and form. As a result, Bonnard is in some ways a deceptive artist because his experiments were far more radical than one may realize at first glance.”

This article provides a brief glimpse into the importance of Japanese ukiyo-e for Bonnard. However, it is hoped that individuals will be inspired by the beauty of his art and the thought-patterns which meant so much to Bonnard.

http://www.sbmadocents.org/Collections/European%20Collection/Bonnard.html

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

June 25, 2012

Japanese art and history: Kano Eitoku and cultural impact of Oda Nobunaga

Japanese art and history: Kano Eitoku and cultural impact of Oda Nobunaga

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

In modern Japan the importance of Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) and his legacy remains extremely strong even today. After all, he laid the foundation stone for the future centralized Japan despite certain limitations during the Tokugawa period. However, often the more dynamic side of Oda Nobunaga is neglected and instead the focus is on his military prowess and cruelty. Therefore, the linkage of Kano Eitoku with Nobunaga is most illuminating.

Eitoku was one of the most prominent and highly respected artists of the sixteenth century in Japan. He was born in 1543 and died eight years after Nobunaga in 1590. Yet the linkage between the artistic mastery of Eitoku with Nobunaga provides a different angle and one which may have been hidden for political and religious reasons.

Nobunaga was an innovator but sadly his inquisitiveness and openness to international influence would be crushed by following leaders. In time the Tokugawa period (1603-1868) would condemn all converts to Christianity to death and isolate Japan from the world despite some “windows” staying open. The power of Buddhism would be utilized by the state and Confucian order would lead to greater stratification.

This was a far cry from Nobunaga who lifted major economic restrictions on the peasantry, had favorable relations with Christian preachers, modernized the military, and introduced other favorable reforms in the realm of economics. The political intrigues of Buddhist elites who desired to preserve their power concentration were alarmed by Nobunaga. This notably applies to his favorable policies towards the peasants and Christian missionaries. Indeed, Nobunaga is reported to have had little time for stratification and practices which held back progress. He remained to be an atheist but his brother converted to Christianity. Not surprisingly, this alarmed Buddhist elites which feared that their wealth may be challenged by peasant reforms and a competing religion.

If you click on http://www.buddhanet.net/nippon/nippon_partI.html this website the most notable feature is the anti-Christian and anti-Nobunaga bias. It is stated by Buddhanet and Japan Buddhist Foundation that“When Oda Nobunaga overthrew the military government of Ashikaga in 1573, he actively suppressed Buddhist institutions because he feared the increased power of the leading temples and monasteries which sided with his enemies. He favored the newly introduced foreign cult of Christianity for purely political reasons.”

Note that the usage of “foreign cult” could also be stated about Buddhism because this faith wasn’t born in Japan. Also, for the non-religious then all religions could be deemed to be “cults.” However, the most important point is that for hundreds of years you have had massive negative opinions about Nobunaga in certain quarters. Therefore, much of his openness and innovation was hidden by elites who feared the policies of Nobunaga. After all, his fresh thinking alarmed many traditional elites whose only desire was to maintain their power concentration.

In the field of the arts the role of Nobunaga was very important and it is in this area where the connection with Eitoku materializes. This applies to Eitoku being a patron of Nobunaga and other powerful leaders. Even before Nobunaga amassed power and wealth he was always interested in the arts.

Therefore, during the period of Nobunaga a cultural renaissance was also beginning to take shape. This applies to major gardens of stunning beauty being built along with castles which were blessed with rich architectural designs. Indeed, the Azuchi Castle which is located on the shores of the famous Lake Biwa is deemed to be one of the most beautiful castles ever built. Inside, this castle it was adorned with stunning ceiling paintings by Eitoku and other major areas of art related to high quality statues.

Nobunaga also used his innovation in relationship with the Japanese tea ceremony.  Also, the usage of the Japanese tea ceremony during talks about business, trade, and politics were firmly established under Nobunaga and reached a new dimension within the body politic of Japan. Therefore, Sen no Rikyu who was a famous tea master under his rule had an important cultural part to play in developing greater refinement. At the same time Nobunaga was also intrigued by aspects of European culture therefore he collected Western art and studied other areas.

The first Christian church to be built in Kyoto in 1576 was because of Nobunaga’s patronage. While the first steps of modern kabuki began to materialize under his leadership and during the Tokugawa period this important cultural symbol would flourish. Alongside all these innovations Nobunaga had hoped to install a rational political system which moved away from superstition and stratification. This can be seen by his openness to outside ideas and economic policies which enabled trade to flourish, for peasants to have greater freedom and the same applies to artisans. However, his period in power could not fully implement all the reforms that he had desired. Therefore, in time you had a counter-revolution in the realm of ideas which persecuted Christianity, isolated Japan, infringed on the rights of peasants, and whereby traditional power mechanisms once more stifled many areas of life.

In an earlier article about Eitoku and Nobunaga by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “Eitoku was born in Kyoto and clearly he belonged to a prestigious family because he was the grandson of Kano Motonobu (1476-1559). Therefore, with the guidance of his grandfather and with being blessed with such talent, which had been recognized when Eitoku was a very young child, he soon came to prominence and patrons like Nobunaga loved the richness of his style.”

“The influence of Chinese painting styles was clear and this was only natural for the day and clearly Motonobu was very proud of his grandson. Eitoku maintained the pre-eminence of the Kano school which was founded by Kano Masanobu (1434-1530?).

Eitoku is a reminder that despite all the carnage during the period of Nobunaga, the cultural realm remained strong and art was highly valued. Therefore, despite the passages of time Eitoku stills remains potent in modern day Japan because he produced many stunning art pieces.”

Eitoku like Nobunaga left a lasting legacy despite the reasons being very different. However, without the patronage of Nobunaga then the amazing skills of Eitoku would have been hindered on a national scale. The relationship between both individuals highlights the sophistication of Nobunaga and the mastery of Eitoku and his stunning pieces of art.

Nobunaga was much more than just a warlord because he helped many aspects of Japanese society to flourish. In the field of culture and art his legacy is extremely rich. Therefore, the artwork of Eitoku provides a glimpse into the world of Nobunaga and his unbelievable free spirit.

http://www.kyohaku.go.jp/eng/tokubetsu/071016/tokubetsu.html  Kyoto National Museum

http://www.all-art.org/asia/japanese_prints/japan_art2.html 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com 

http://moderntokyotimes.com 

June 15, 2012

Oka Shikanosuke and Henri Rousseau: Art based on grace and tranquility

 Oka Shikanosuke and Henri Rousseau: Art based on grace and tranquility

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Oka Shikanosuke (1898-1978) took a familiar path for many Japanese artists in this period by moving to France in 1924. The impression of Paris and the French cultural scene must have enchanted Oka Shikanosuke during this period of his life because he stayed until 1939. Artists like Henri Rousseau and Odilon Redon influenced him greatly and the connection between Oka Shikanosuke and Henri Rousseau is visually powerful.

Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) was born in Northern France and from a young age he was fascinated by the arts. If circumstances had been more fortunate then he would have focused more heavily on art and music but his family background was working-class. Therefore, from a financial point of view he faced many restraints. However, his background enabled him to focus on art in a different way because becoming an artist was never going. This applies to the reality of elitism, monetary issues, being outside of powerful circles, and other restraints.

Henri Rousseau therefore was free to teach himself and to follow his own path. This was very liberating despite the hardships and difficulties he faced. Technical wise he also focused on a way that suited his logic and style. Therefore, he would paint from the top of the canvas first and likewise he would paint the colors singularly.

Dieter Wanczura, www.artelino.com, comments about Henri Rousseau that Somehow Henri Rousseau got the attention of some professional avant-garde artists. The discussion whether they took him serious or if he was only some kind of exotic amusement for them fills many books. Toulouse-Lautrec, Edgar Degas, Odilon Redon, Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin and later Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Wassily Kandinsky certainly appreciated his works.”

“It is astonishing and impressive at the same time how this man from the working class and without any academic art training was able to find a style of his own and how he was immune against adopting anything from the avant-garde artists around him. From an outsider who finally got some limited acceptance, you would expect some eager readiness to absorb the styles of the established art world or to experiment with the trendy styles of his avant-garde comrades like impressionism, post-impressionism, fauvism or cubism. Not so for Henri. And this makes him so unique.”

Henri Rousseau overcame many obstacles and more important, he remained true to himself and didn’t suffer from an inferiority complex. This meant that he felt comfortable with the art he produced and understood the power of his own methodology.

This aspect about Henri Rousseau must have intrigued Oka Shikanosuke because in many ways he was a unique artist. Oka Shikanosuke will also have been extremely familiar with Japanese, Chinese, and Western art movements and this will have applied to past history and during his lifetime. It could well be that Oka Shikanosuke was attracted by the uniqueness of Henri Rousseau and that this also created internal freedom for himself.

The path of Oka Shikanosuke was a million miles away from Henri Rousseau when it came to education and learning at famous institutions. During his time in France he met many Japanese artists like Tsuguharu Fujita and many more who were connected to the Ecole de Paris. Also, during his stay in France he taught himself techniques related to oil painting.

Oka Shikanosuke clearly admired Henri Rousseau and other artists like Odilon Redon. Indeed, it is clear that many landscape and still life pieces of art by Oka Shikanosuke were tributes to Henri Rousseau. The love that Oka Shikanosuke felt for his art is witnessed by him introducing Henri Rousseau to a much wider audience in Japan. Suzuki Tsuneshi (1930-2000) also helped greatly because of being the owner of the Pola Orbis Group which built the elegant and vibrant Pola Collection. Therefore, the relationship between Oka Shikanosuke and Suzuki Tsuneshi must be given great credit for highlighting the richness of Henri Rousseau to the Japanese public.

The artist Oka Shikanosuke is a notable artist in his own right and in 1972 he was rewarded for the many areas of his art work, and how he helped so many individuals during his lifetime. Therefore, he received the Order of Cultural Merit which was richly deserved. Many aspects of the art of both Henri Rousseau and Oka Shikanosuke are based on grace and tranquility irrespective of the theme that the art work is based on. They both belong to different generations and culture however through art everything was bridged and this can be seen by the art work of both artists. Oka Shikanosuke took Henri Rousseau to heart despite never meeting in the flesh because of the generation gap.

 

Oka Shikanosuke  – Image 2,4,6, and 8 by Oka Shikanosuke

Henri Rousseau      Image 1,3,5,7, and 9 by Henri Rousseau

 

http://www.polamuseum.or.jp/english/exhibition/03_17.html

http://www.artelino.com/articles/henri_rousseau.asp

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com