Posts tagged ‘art and culture in japan’

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.” 

June 3, 2012

Japanese art and culture: Yoshu Chikanobu provides a rich glimpse into Japan

Japanese art and culture: Yoshu Chikanobu provides a rich glimpse into Japan

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Yoshu Chikanobu (Toyohara Chikanobu) lived between 1838 and 1912 and much of his art highlights the changing nature of Japan. The opening up of Japan after the Meiji Restoration provided many new dreams for Japanese citizens but it also was the start of the death knell for many artisans. This applies to the technological changes taking place and the changing values and thinking during this period of history.

Chikanobu, like other ukiyo-e artists in the Meiji era, understood the need to adapt because many new art forms were altering the artistic landscape in Japan. Western art especially impacted on the new generation of artists and political elites wanted to encourage modernism. Therefore, the new crème de la crème of young artists mainly adopted concepts outside of the powerful ukiyo-e art form which was so potent during the Edo period.

At the same time, technological advancements and photography were impacting greatly on ukiyo-e from a virtually negative point of view. The old ways which nurtured art in the Edo period, along with other forms of art, were being challenged by many new art movements. Also, photography would eat away at the need for ukiyo-e because it could not compete on a technological level playing field.

Chikanobu highlights an array of subjects in his art and this applies to the power of the past to the changing nature of Japanese society. He also depicted powerful historical figures in Japanese history to highlighting the nationalist side of the Meiji period which applies to war. Also, when you view Chikanobu’s art you can visually witness the imperial aspects of Western powers, which were being replicated in dress styles when it applied to elites.

Cultural wise, Chikanobu also painted many adorable themes. This applies to the Japanese tea ceremony, ikebana, kabuki, fashion in the changing Japan, and a plethora of other subjects. In this sense, Chikanobu opens up many aspects of Japan related to many themes. These themes also apply to the “old world” and “new world.”

The Toshidama Gallery (http://toshidama.wordpress.comcomments that “Chikanobu is one of the giants of the Meiji era of Japanese Woodblock prints. With Kunichika and Yoshitoshi, Chikanobu distinguished the turmoil of Japanese culture as it came to terms with the new age. Like them his life and career were inextricably linked to the upheavals in Japanese history and the near civil wars that characterized the time.”

Chikanobu and the series titled A Mirror of the Ages is also a classic because of the rich cultural themes related to women and fashion throughout the changing times. The Toshidama Gallery highlights this series strongly by stating that “This whole series is one of the outstanding achievements of late nineteenth century Japanese art. One of his best series, A Mirror of the Ages showed women by fashion and hair style throughout history. There is of course the longing for the past and yet these prints are unmistakably modern and of their time….The quality of printing is outstanding, especially in Chikanobu’s use of white for the rendering of the powdered faces. It is often forgotten by art historians that this was the period about all others when the technique of woodblock printing achieved its zenith whilst at the same time there were artists of stature to execute it.”

Other adorable print series include “Chiyoda no Ooku” (Court Ladies of the Chiyoda Palace) and “Shin Bijin” (True Beauties). Of course, Chikanobu produced many amazing pieces of art but both the above named series relate to genuine aspects of female beauty in Japan. This is highlighted by traditional clothes, for example the kimono, to the changing nature of the time which applies to Western dress styles.

In a past article about Chikanobu I comment that “Chikanobu not only witnessed the new revolutionary period and how elites looked to the West but by the late 1880s and early 1890s nostalgia also returned.  Obviously for the masses they were outside both themes and the only important thing was survival and adapting.”

The art of Chikanobu stands out dramatically and this not only applies to the exquisite skills that he was blessed with, but also to the themes that Chikanobu highlights. He certainly provides many glimpses into Japan which relate to the “old world,” cultural aspects of Japan, and the modernization of the Meiji period.

Overall, Chikanobu is one of the greats of the ukiyo-e art movement and given the plethora of fantastic ukiyo-e artists, this highlights his richness to the full. Therefore, if you adore Japanese art, culture, and history, then Chikanobu will appeal greatly because of the broad themes he depicted in his art.

Please visit for more articles and information.

Please visit –   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 19thcenturies) are beautiful, collectible and a sound financial investment

May 24, 2012

Alfred Sisley and Fujishima Takeji: Art, Impressionism and the Paris connection

Alfred Sisley and Fujishima Takeji: Art, Impressionism and the Paris connection

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Alfred Sisley and Fujishima Takeji were both born in the nineteenth century and their common factors apply to the stunning art they produced and the richness of Paris which influenced both artists. They both also studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Paris in France.  However, the generational gap meant that both individuals studied at this important institution at different periods.

Fujishima Takeji (1867-1943) and Alfred Sisley (1839-1899) may have been born in two very different parts of the world but the Paris connection brought them together in the artistic sense. Alfred Sisley retained his British citizenship throughout his life despite being born in Paris and residing mainly in France. Therefore, Alfred Sisley was firmly based in Europe while Fujishima Takeji understood the diverse complexities of both Japanese art and European art.

However, Alfred Sisley would have connected with the birth place of Fujishima Takeji because he was born in Kagoshima. The reason for the connection applies to the countryside which meant so much to Alfred Sisley who adored landscape art. This also is another common theme shared by both exquisite artists.  The same also applies to Impressionism which meant so much to both artist but for Alfred Sisley the power ofImpressionist landscape was much deeper.

The stunning Impressionist landscape art of Alfred Sisley amazingly appears to be massively underrated when it comes to the fame of his name. Of course, for people who adore Impressionist art and art in general, then Alfred Sisley will be known to many. However, even within the art world his name doesn’t spring to mind when compared with other Impressionist artists. This is extremely surprising because he produced many sublime pieces of art which strikingly standout.

One important difference between Fujishima Takeji and Alfred Sisley is that Alfred Sisley never left the path ofImpressionist landscape art. Impressionism meant the world to Alfred Sisley. However, for Fujishima Takeji the influence of Japanese art and searching for new ideas meant that other art movements were equally important.

Fujishima Takeji had originally started studying traditional Japanese painting when he relocated to Tokyo in 1884. During this period he studied under Gyokusho Kawabata and prior to this he had learnt brush stroke techniques under Togaku Hirayama. However, the lore of Western art appealed greatly to Fujishima Takeji therefore he soon changed his art direction and focused on Western-style paintings. He was lucky enough to study under Hosui Yamamoto and Yukihiko Soyama when he made this transition and it soon became apparent that Fujishima Takeji had taken the right path.

Outside of Japan Fujishima Takeji became known for his importance in focusing on and developingRomanticism and Impressionism which graced the Japanese art scene called yoga (Western-style). This change of direction would also witness Fujishima Takeji becoming influenced by Art Nouveau. Yet despite the many influences it was the yoga path which became instrumental to him by the mid-1880s. Great credit for enhancing his abundant talent must be given to Hosui Yamamoto and Yukihiko Soyama for their expert guidance.

Ironically, the industrialization and innovation of the Meiji Restoration (1868) meant that new opportunities were occurring within all strata’s of society. This enabled many Japanese artists to focus on new art forms and to free their minds whereby many paths were open to talented artists outside of the traditional art forms of Japan. However, for Alfred Sisley his stunning art bypassed the power of industrialization and instead it would appear that nature was in the ascendancy. This was also done without any political or romantic bias because everything seemed so natural and this is the beauty of Alfred Sisley.

Another different aspect to the lives of Fujishima Takeji and Alfred Sisley applies to material wealth and certainty. Alfred Sisley was born into a wealthy family but after the 1870-1871 Franco-Prussian war, everything changed because poverty and challenging times would now become the norm. In this sense, Fujishima Takeji overcomes material obstacles because his later life was extremely stable when it came to financial matters. However, for Alfred Sisley this area remained problematic for him despite having wealthy patrons which enabled him to travel to Britain from time to time.

Despite poverty remaining with the Sisley family this never dampened his spirit and love of Impressionism. Therefore, he rose above everything and continued to produce stunning landscapes throughout his remaining years on this earth. Also, when the Sisley family moved away from Paris and relocated near to the forest of Fontainebleau, this decision turned out to be very fruitful because it suited his style of art. Given this, Alfred Sisley became refreshed by the surrounding environment because he did not need the trappings of major cities by this stage in his life.

Meanwhile the life of Fujishima Takeji in the 1880s was given a huge boost by the novelist and art critic, Ogai Mori. This applies to the fact that Ogai Mori was highly respected and well connected. Therefore, Fujishima Takeji was now moving in the right circles and he clearly utilized all the wisdom and skills that he had learnt from Togaku Hirayama.

The Marubeni Art Collection states that “In 1905, Fujishima traveled to Europe and studied under Fernand Cormon at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Paris in France and Carolus-Duran, President of the Academie de France in Italy. Cormon’s speciality was historical paintings, while Duran excelled in portraiture.”

This meant that Fujishima Takeji also studied at the same institution and while Alfred Sisley had sadly passed away in 1899, his spirit and the power of the art he produced remained strong. Therefore, the same art institution and the trappings of Paris will have been felt richly for both stunning and gifted artists. The meaning of the art institution and their time in Paris will have meant different things. However, certain connections will have flowed in their veins even if the outcome was different for both individuals.

The Marubeni Art Collection continues by stating that “On his return, in 1910, Fujishima was nominated Professor of Tokyo Art School and became a member of the Imperial Art Academy (the Teikoku Bijutsu-in), as well as a member of the jury for its exhibitions, known in abbreviations at the Tei-ten. In 1937, he received the very first Order of Culture (Bunka Kunsho), a decoration given by the Government to those who have contributed greatly to the development of art, science and other fields of culture, along with Saburosuke Okada.”

Overall, the beauty of the art work of Alfred Sisley and Fujishima Takeji is abundantly clear when you view their most famous pieces of art. Certain flows of history and important circles naturally entered both of their respective worlds irrespective if the outcome was different. These two amazing artists have left a rich legacy and both need to be studied more in the modern period because of the richness of the art they both produced.

Image 1-3-5-7-9-11-13-15 are pieces of art by Alfred Sisley and number 2-4-6-8-10-12-14 are art pieces by Fujishima Takeji.

April 27, 2012

Japanese art and Utamaro Kitagawa: striking ukiyo-e artist

Japanese art and Utamaro Kitagawa: striking ukiyo-e artist

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The exact date of the birth of Utamaro Kitagawa and strong details about his parents remain shrouded in mystery. It is known that this striking ukiyo-e artist was born in the middle of the eighteenth century and that he died in the early nineteenth century. However, while these details may remain sketchy the artistic skills of this ukiyo-e artist aren’t sketchy because he left a powerful legacy.

Utamaro was especially known for his bijin-ga (art of beautiful women) and studies of nature. In the middle of the nineteenth century his stunning ukiyo-e portraits reached many acclaimed artists in Europe, notably in France. The upshot of this was that he influenced European Impressionists because of aspects of his art related to partial views and other areas related to light and shade.

In the early art of Utamaro you can see the influence of Torii Kiyonaga and Harunobu Suzuki. Also, it is widely accepted that he studied under Toriyama Sekien and that the publisher Tsutaya Juzaburo enabled Utamaro to develop and prosper. This applies to the early part of his artistic career but in time the relationship would cease once Utamaro reached new heights in the early 1790s.

Therefore, from 1791 he concentrated on single portraits of ladies rather than women in groups, which was very popular at the time. His half-length portraits would also inspire many artists in later generations in Japan and much further afield.

It is stated that Utamaro would find models from either the streets of Tokyo or from the sexual known area called Yoshiwara, which is still known for this feature in modern day Tokyo. Also, in the streets of Harajuku, Shibuya, and Shinjuku in modern times, you will often see men asking beautiful ladies for work related to modeling and other areas. Therefore, it is easy to envisage Utamaro doing the same in the late eighteenth century and early nineteenth century.

Utamaro didn’t just limit himself to bijin-ga because he also did work related to nature studies, animals, insects, and shunga (erotica). Often, this side of Utamaro is overlooked but clearly he was multi-dimensional. Also, it must be stated that shunga may appear to be more sexual from the non-Japanese point of view. However, in Japan this art form was a way of focusing on the natural side of human behavior.

Dieter Wanczura on the website Artelino comments that “When reading about this artist, you will often find phrases like “No other ukiyo-e artist has painted the beauty of women as deeply as he did”. This has indeed a point. Utamaro’s women express a certain sensitivity that no ukiyo-e artist had achieved before him. He had experimented with some new techniques to display the flesh tones of his women portraits in a different and softer manner.”

“But the artist certainly did not show women in their real natural physiognomy. His women are idealized with extremely tall and slender bodies. The heads are twice longer than broad. The noses are extremely long and the eyes and the mouth are depicted as tiny little slits. His women have long necks and small shoulders.”

“The typical physiognomy of a Japanese woman of the late eighteenth century was certainly far different from the designs of Utamaro. Indeed, his women look more like the models in today’s fashion magazines. Is this the key for an explanation of the success of Utamaro prints?”

Sadly, the last few years witnessed bouts of depression after being imprisoned in 1804 because of his art. This applies to an historical print that he produced which showed Toyotomi Hideyoshi (a pre-Edo leader who helped to unify Japan) with five concubines and his wife. However, this displeased the ruling elites and for this he was put in prison for a brief period (some say 50 days others state the period was much shorter).

Irrespective of the length of time, he took this badly because he felt humiliated and clearly this incident tarnished his reputation amongst the elites. He died two years later but his legacy remains strong because of the stunning pieces of art he produced

April 5, 2012

Japanese art and Ito Shinsui: bijinga and fashion in stylish art form

Japanese art and Ito Shinsui: bijinga and fashion in stylish art form

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Ito Shinsui (1898-1972) is a “famous son” of Japanese art because his art is blessed with elegance, sophistication, and serenity. This is equally matched with natural simplicity and adorable color schemes when applied to his images of beautiful ladies and landscapes. Therefore, if you want to imagine the natural beauty of “the old world” and the stylish nature of traditional Japanese fashion styles for ladies, then Ito Shinsui does this with panache, amazing color schemes and elegant depictions of stunning ladies.

Indeed, the art work of Ito Shinsui is not only extremely beautiful and charming but the facial features of the ladies are very mysterious. This reality of the art work of Ito Shinsui is most striking. For he possesses a style which conjures up sublime beauty but within settings which are at one with nature and which don’t need to be sensationalized.

Also, the adorable color schemes highlight the exquisite beauty of traditional Japanese clothes for ladies. In terms of fashion, he enables the richness of Japanese culture to be seen through the majestic styles and color co-ordinations of traditional clothes, which just beg for admiration.

Therefore, in the modern world of fashion you will see many amazing boutiques which highlight the rich embroidery, creativity, and amazing fabrics, of modern day fashion. The same applies to visiting famous fashion shows in Paris, New York, Milan, Tokyo, London, and other high octane fashion exhibitions which highlight elegant models and various styles. However, the art of Ito Shinsui and the amazing styles he depicts would grace any modern fashion show. This applies to panache, grace, color schemes, rich fabrics, buzzing creativity, and other important factors.

On the website called Fujiland by B.C.Liddell it is stated that Shinsui Ito was a central figure in Japan’s artistic identity crisis during the 20th century. As wave after wave of artistic ‘isms’ from overseas broke upon these shores, native artists felt compelled to either abandon their own rich artistic traditions or embrace them even more strongly. Ito … was one of those artists who chose the latter course, joining the Nihonga movement, which looked to Japan’s past for inspiration rather than the confusing plethora of ideas pouring in from abroad.”

“When he was 18, he joined Shinhanga Undo, a group which aimed to revive the methods and styles of ukiyo-e. This had a profound influence on the style and themes of his paintings which abound with the images of nature and feminine beauty found in traditional Japanese wood block prints. Joshin (Unsullied Morning) (1930), a beautiful picture depicting a group of naked women bathing in a natural hot spring combines both of these aesthetics. The color of the bathers is so softened by the steam and blended into the surrounding nature, that it is only the blackness of their hair that first alerts us to their presence.”

“Nihonga differs markedly from Western painting in the materials used. The emphasis, as with so much in Japanese culture, is on the use of entirely natural materials. Paper and silk, mounted on board, wall scrolls or on folding screens, are used instead of canvas.”

The most notable comment on this website about Ito Shinsui is that “Japanese art inspired by the imported artistic movements of the 20th century often looks derivative and dated, but the work of Shinsui Ito retains its sincere beauty and timeless appeal.”

Therefore, not only did Ito Shinsui maintain a connection with past Japanese art but his bijinga art is also timeless. This most certainly applies to his finest collection because you can connect the image with the most exquisite kimono during the Taisho and Showa period. However, because of the adorable color schemes and highlighting the stunning nature of traditional Japanese clothes – then, the fashion angle is equally rewarding because his powerful art isn’t out of place in the modern period.

Ito Shinsui truly belonged to the Shin Hanga art movement and Watanabe Shozaburo, a famous publisher, must be credited with opening up many doors for this amazing artist. Their relationship would remain strong for many decades and both individuals benefited.

The beauty of Ito Shinsui is that he connects the old art world of Japan with the new world in a way which is natural. His gracefulness is a wonder to behold. Therefore, he is fondly remembered for the art he produced and the “timeless” nature of his art is truly remarkable.

March 23, 2012

Japanese art and Yumeji Takehisa: Taisho Romanticism and the shadow of Shusui Kotoku

Japanese art and Yumeji Takehisa: Taisho Romanticism and the shadow of Shusui Kotoku

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Yumeji Takehisa produced many stunning pieces of art but he never received the international acclaim that he fully deserved during his lifetime. He was born in 1884 and passed away in 1934 because of illness. Indeed, the final years of his life were left unfulfilled because despite producing striking pieces of art, his visit to America and Europe was mainly disappointing in 1931.

Yet when you look at the art of Yumeji Takehisa it is difficult to understand why he didn’t make a breakthrough internationally. After all, his art is visually very beautiful and you can feel the passion and creativity of this sublime artist. Not only this, when viewing his most notable art pieces it is clear that his unique style and sophistication hits the heart immediately.

Also, this energy and passion comes alive in his art work. Therefore, the lows in his life and lack of international recognition must have hurt him deeply because many lesser artists were received with much more attention.

Within Japan Yumeji Takehisa was highly regarded during his lifetime. On the Artelino website( it is stated that he was Born in Honjo village of Okayama prefecture in the south of Honshu island, Yumeji Takehisa reached an outstanding popularity in Japan. As a painter, illustrator and printmaker he was one of the leading exponents of the Taisho period (1912-1926).”

It is also stated that He also became famous as a writer and poet. Tokyo dedicated a museum to Yumeji Takehisa, where one can see his paintings, watercolors and art prints.”

Therefore, his art and other skills were noticed within Japan during his lifetime but this notably applies to lay circles. Yumeji Takehisa did know famous artists but he couldn’t really breakthrough when it came to contemporary academic circles. This also is a little mystifying given the creative nature of his art and the stunning images he produced.

Artelino comments that Being active in the hanga (Japanese for “print”) movement, Yumeiji Takehisa was influenced by modern Western art, out of which a new style developed: “Taisho romanticism.”

“Takehisa became one of its major exponents – mainly in the field of color woodblocks. He filled the decorative element of this style with a melancholic, poetic atmosphere which formed a beautiful harmony with the charm of beautiful women.”

Indeed, the “Taisho romanticism” of his work suited his bijin-ga images because of the sensitivity of his most sublime pieces of art. It is also known that he was a strong friend of Shusui Kotoku (1871 – 1911) who was a well known socialist and anarchist.

Sadly, Shusui Kotoku also died very young after being executed for “alleged treason.” Given the “Taisho romanticism” of his work and adorable bijin-ga pieces of art, it is easy to believe that the “romanticism” of his friend impacted on his art work. Indeed, the liberalism of his lifestyle may also indicate that despite his friend being executed in 1911 – his “shadow” remained with the heart of Yumeji Takehisa.

The final period on this earth was very traumatic and difficult for Yumeji Takehisa but the spirit of Shusui Kotoku and himself remains long after their respective deaths. After all, despite both dying young their passion will always stay within the legacies they left and created within their respective work.

They died under different circumstances but both had fresh dreams and ideals. The legacy of Yumeji Takehisa is remarkable given the stunning art he produced and he truly deserves to be acclaimed internationally.

March 3, 2012

Japanese art and Fujishima Takeji: stunning artist from Kagoshima

Japanese art and Fujishima Takeji: stunning artist from Kagoshima

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Fujishima Takeji was born in (1867-1943) Kagoshima and during his informative years he learnt brushwork techniques in 1882 from Togaku Hirayama. However, in 1884 Fujishima Takeji moved to Tokyo and at first he studied traditional Japanese painting under Gyokusho Kawabata but the pull of Western-style art was pulling away at him. Therefore, he turned to Western-style paintings and studied under Hosui Yamamoto and Yukihiko Soyama.

The 1880s was a period of enormous development for Fujishima Takeji and clearly Togaku Hirayama had given him a firm base to develop. Not surprisingly this young gifted artist was gaining in esteem and the art critic and novelist, Ogai Mori, was deeply impressed by his art. This proved to be very fruitful because Ogai Mori was extremely influential because he knew people in the right circles.

In the 1890s academia would become his backbone and this proved a wise choice because it opened up new doors. At first he began to teach in Mie Prefecture in 1893 but the real breakthrough occurred when Seiki Kuroda influenced him to become an assistant professor in Tokyo. Therefore, in 1896 he taught at the Tokyo Art School and this applies to the Western Painting Department.

In Europe Fujishima Takeji is known for developing and enhancing Romanticism and Impressionism within the Japanese art movement called yogaIn time he would become influenced by Art NouveauHowever, his work within the yoga (Western-style) art movement in Japan suited his thinking because by the mid-1880s he had chosen this path when he studied under Hosui Yamamoto and Yukihiko Soyama.

The Marubeni Art Collection comments that “In 1905, Fujishima traveled to Europe and studied under Fernand Cormon at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de Paris in France and Carolus-Duran, President of the Academie de France in Italy. Cormon’s speciality was historical paintings, while Duran excelled in portraiture.”


On his return, in 1910, Fujishima was nominated Professor of Tokyo Art School and became a member of the Imperial Art Academy (the Teikoku Bijutsu-in), as well as a member of the jury for its exhibitions, known in abbreviations at the Tei-ten. In 1937, he received the very first Order of Culture (Bunka Kunsho), a decoration given by the Government to those who have contributed greatly to the development of art, science and other fields of culture, along with Saburosuke Okada.”

The life of Fujishima Takeji was extremely structured and this applies to his teachers, entering academia, and having a firm direction. Also, the window of opportunity because of the changing times during this period of Japanese history meant that his natural move away from traditional Japanese art was easily obtainable. This applies to the artistic climate in Japan during his informative years and development stage.

Fujishima Takeji is rightly acclaimed for the richness of his art and the images in this article are meant to encourage people to delve into his art work.

January 18, 2012

Japanese art and Ito Shinsui: bijinga and landscapes

Japanese art and Ito Shinsui: bijinga and landscapes

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The artist Ito Shinsui (1898-1972) left a lasting legacy because he produced many stunning works of art. His art work came to the fore during the Taisho and Showa period in Japan and he became famous for stunning images of beautiful women. However, Ito Shinsui also produced many amazing landscape paintings and he and a few other major artists maintained the rich tradition of Japanese art during this difficult and dramatic time in Japanese history.

He was born in Tokyo and because of his father becoming bankrupt after making rash investments it was clear that he couldn’t remain at elementary school. This event would become a blessing in disguise because Ito Shinsui became a live-in apprentice and soon it would become apparent that he had been blessed with many artistic talents.

Ito Shinsui’s apprenticeship took place in a printing shop and this opened up a new world because now he could learn important printing techniques and study more about the arts. His apprenticeship started in 1911 under Kaburagi Kiyokata and within one year and at the tender age of 14, his paintings became known to the general public because Kaburagi Kiyokata entered them into exhibitions.

Therefore, by an early age it was clear that this young teenager was destined for a bright future. Ito Shinsui belonged to the Shin Hanga movement and the famous publisher, Watanabe Shozaburo, developed his reputation in the commercial area because of his many links and high motivation. This relationship would last many decades and both benefitted greatly.

The “Eight Views of Lake Biwa (Omi)” became highly acclaimed and Kawase Hasui was greatly inspired by this painting collection. Other famous collections by Ito Shinsui include “Twelve Figures of New Beauties,” “Collection of Modern Beauties,” “Twelve Views of Oshima,” “Three Views of Mount Fuji,” and “Ten Views of Shinano.” Also, what is remarkable is that the “Eight Views of Lake Biwa (Omi)” was completed in 1918 when Ito Shinsui was extremely young.

Another stunning piece of work done by Ito Shinsui before he was 19 years of age is “Young Girl Washing.”The composition and passion of this stunning masterpiece is extremely striking. This applies to the sophisticated composition for such a young individual and the innocence that the image portrays.

Dieter Wanczura comments that “Shunsui was a master of bijinga – images of beautiful women in a sensual, refined, technically perfect and appealing manner. The artist’s bijinga are marked by a frequent use of a light gray background and red or blue colors in the garment. Another favorite subject was landscape prints.”

The Shin Hanga movement which Ito Shinsui belonged to left a lasting legacy because of the art form it produced. The Artelino website states that “The shin hanga movement integrated Western elements without giving up the old values of Japanese, traditional woodblock prints. Instead of blindly imitating Western art styles, the new movement concentrated on traditional subjects like landscapes, beautiful women and actor portraits. Inspired by European Impressionism the artists introduced the effects of light and the expression of individual moods. The result was a technically superb and compelling new style of Japanese prints.”

Ito Shinsui left a remarkable legacy because from such an early age it was apparent that he was extremely gifted. Therefore, despite the turbulence of his early childhood when his father faced severe hardship, Ito Shinsui overcame this obstacle and graced the world of art.

January 14, 2012

Japanese art and Yumeji Takehisa: final years of sorrow

Japanese art and Yumeji Takehisa: final years of sorrow

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


Yumeji Takehisa was born in 1884 and died at the age of 49 in 1934. The last decade of his life was often traumatic and had many moments of bleakness because of natural events and disappointment during his lack of recognition when he visited America and Europe in 1931. After this, he returned to Japan in 1933 but his health had deteriorated and the following year he would pass away.

This may appear to be a strange way to introduce Yumeji Takehisa but his final decade on this earth sums up much about his lack of notoriety in Europe and North America. Indeed, during his lifetime he had many ups and downs and this applies to wanting to focus on poetry and getting divorced after a very short period.

Yumeji Takehisa also lived during momentous times in Japan and this applies to the liberalism of the Taisho period and the growing popularity of nationalism and socialism in Japan which would create many political convulsions in the 1920s and 1930s. Indeed, the spirit of the times can be felt by the fact that he never studied under any real mentor. Therefore, the romanticism and hope of the Taisho period for individuals with ambitions rubbed off on him.

In the artistic circles of his day much of his work was disregarded but he was popular amongst lay people outside of the artist inner-circle. This aspect of Yumeji Takehisa summed up his desire to be a poet in his early adult life because he soon realized that he couldn’t earn enough money in this field. Given this, he put great energy into his art and the free spirit of the times enabled him to move forward.

Tragedy struck Japan in 1923 because of the Kanto earthquake whereby vast numbers of people were killed and great devastation hit many areas. This event also impacted greatly on Yumeji Takehisa because he was forced to restart once more. However, with great dedication and being a prolific artist who created more than 3,000 works, then he overcame the many obstacles he faced.

In 1931 he left Japan and visited America and Europe but overall he was left dissatisfied because his work wasn’t accepted on the whole. Also, his health became bad because of a very serious disease and after returning to Japan in 1933 his days were numbered. The following year he passed away in a sanatorium and clearly the final years of his life were filled with great sorrow.

Sabine Schenk comments (Cultural News) that “Takehisa Yumeji, however, is still not well known in America and Europe and there are only a few non-Japanese references on him. The reason for that 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.”

“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.”

Sabine Schenk further comments that “Yumeji had tried to enter the contemporary academic circles, but although he had been rejected, he maintained good relationships with recognized artists of that time such as Fujishima Takeji (1867-1943) and others.”

Yumeji Takehisa did create an impact within the Japanese art world and this applies to Shinso Okamoto, Osamu Shibuya, and others. However, you get the feeling that if the cards had been dealt more kindly, then his impact would have been greater both inside Japan and internationally during his lifetime.

January 6, 2012

Japanese Buddhist Art at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul (Now until Feb 19, 2012)

Japanese Buddhist Art at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul (Now until Feb 19, 2012)

Michel Lebon and Lee Jay Walker  

Modern Tokyo Times

The ( National Museum of Korea (NMK) is currently holding a stunning exhibition of Japanese Buddhist art and the exhibition runs until February 19, 2012. According to information on the NMK website this museum was the ninth most visited museum in the world in 2010 and with stylish exhibitions like Japanese Buddhist art it is clear why. Therefore, Koreans, other nationalities in South Korea and tourists to this beautiful country have a great opportunity to view this exhibition and other exhibitions which highlight the richness of Korean culture.

Japanese Buddhist art and wisdom is famous in places like Kamakura, Kyoto, Nara, Koyasan, and throughout Japan and clearly Korea and China enabled Buddhism to reach the land of the rising sun. The exhibition held at the NMK focuses on art from the Lake Biwa area and the spiritual connection between Korea and Japan is also highlighted.

Ryu Seung-jin who is the curator of Asian Art at the NMK comments that“Many Koreans may not be so familiar with the Lake Biwa district….But the region carries a lot of significance in Korea-Japan history, as it was the area where Buddhism was introduced by Baekje migrants, and where the official travelling routes for goodwill missions from Joseon (1392-1910), whenever they made diplomatic visits to Japan, took place.”

Therefore, the exhibition isn’t just highlighting the natural beauty of Japanese Buddhist art and the richness of culture in the Lake Biwa area of Japan. More important, the exhibition is highlighting a common thread which runs throughout northeast Asia and this applies to Buddhism and past interaction between different ethnic groups.

In this period of history some of the finest scholars and religious teachers of the entire region would travel or interact through Buddhist thought patterns and cultural exchanges were normal. Therefore, when we look at petty issues re-surfacing time after time in modern northeast Asia it makes you wonder what happened to “modernity” and “progress.” Given this, the Japanese art exhibition in Seoul at the NMK is a welcome reminder about the shared humanity of history, ideas, culture, and so forth, of the entire region.

Of course, unique internal traits in each respective nation alongside strong regional traits which are not nation based remain strong. However, the role of Buddhism was meant to highlight the common humanity of all just like Christianity and other world faiths. Therefore, by viewing the exhibition it becomes apparent that Buddhism and Confucianism impacted deeply on the entire region and this also applies to architectural design in Japan in this period.

The exhibition is extremely rich in culture and this applies to showing 4 National Treasure items from Japan and highlighting a further 31 items of Important Cultural Property according to Japan which designated these titles. Also, other amazing art items belong to this stunning exhibition and clearly this will appeal to all individuals who love art, culture, history, and religion.

If you view the website of the NMK it states the following about the Lake Biwa region because it is stated that “Buddhism was brought from Baekje to this area earlier than elsewhere in Japan and flourished there. The temple where Tiantai Buddhism was founded and famous Buddhist retreats nestle in mountains and hills surrounding Lake Biwako, and these places abound in Buddhist sculptures and paintings.”

“This exhibition showcases Buddhist art items in the collection, or in the custody, of the Shiga Prefectural Lake Biwako Museum in Otsu, along with items in the collections of the Nara and Kyoto National Museums and those housed in temples in Shiga Prefecture.” 

If ( you visit this link then more in depth information will be supplied about this stunning art exhibition at the NMK which is located in Seoul. Therefore, please check this link and note other exhibitions and other details about this exquisite museum.

The image was taken from the National Museum of Korea website which highlights this stunning exhibition.