Posts tagged ‘lee jay walker and art’

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  

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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.

 

http://www.alfredsisley.org

http://www.vincentvangoghclaudemonet.org/artist/Fujishima_takeji.html

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.

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

March 31, 2012

Japanese art and Yokoyama Taikan: stunning art

Japanese art and Yokoyama Taikan: stunning art

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Yokoyama Taikan (1868-1958) was born in the prefecture of Ibaraki but he moved to Tokyo in 1878. This period of history in Japan would witness many events because time didn’t stand still during the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa periods of history. Not surprisingly, some of his work during the nationalist period was tinged by the sentiments of the time. Therefore, not all images of Mount Fuji by Yokoyama Taikan were solely based on art because they also had a political angle. However, irrespective of political issues, the artist himself was blessed with rich skills and his legacy is great.

When Yokoyama Taikan was a teenager he was fascinated by western style oil paintings and he was also interested in the English language. During his university days fellow classmates included Saigo Kogetsu, Hishida Shunso, and Shimomura Kanzan. This extremely talented bunch would all become famous in their own right and Yokoyama Taikan also studied under Hashimoto Gaho.

Once Yokoyama Taikan had graduated he entered the world of academia and this applies to teaching in Kyoto and then returning back to Tokyo to teach at the Tokyo Bijutsu Gakko. However, loyalty was very important to him therefore when Okakura Kazuko (Okakura Tenshin) was forced out of his job because of political reasons he also resigned. This highlights the importance of his background and the fact that he was principled to things that he believed in.

The death of his wife was followed by a period of travelling to Berlin, Boston, Calcutta, London, Paris, New York, and other cities. This must have impacted greatly on Yokoyama Taikan because each place had its own culture and the art world would have varied greatly.

Events in the 1930s eventually led to the Second World War and this meant that artists were being watched carefully in Japan and in other powerful nations. According to the Princeton University Art Museum with regards to art in Japan in this period, it is stated that “One artist who thrived in the ultra-nationalist pre-war environment was Yokoyama Taikan (1868–1959). Born at the beginning of the Meiji period, Yokoyama trained with Okakura early in his career. In 1931, he was appointed as artist to the imperial household, and produced numerous works that drew upon Japanese historical and literary themes. These he presented in a traditional style that drew upon the decorative styles of the Rinpa school and Momoyama–era screen painting. In 1943, Taikan became the chair of the Japan Art Patriotic Society (Nihon Bijutsu Hokokukai), which was set up by the Ministry of Education in an attempt to control the creative output of the country’s artists and put it in the service of its war-time ideology. Taikan in fact joined a number of other prominent artists in choosing to demonstrate his patriotism by contributing the profits from the sale of his works to the military effort.”

It must be remembered that artists, film stars, writers, and so forth, were put in the frontline at home irrespective if the artist resided in America, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, or in other nations which took part in the war. The loyalty that Yokoyama Taikan showed towards his mentor during his early life was part and parcel of his character. Therefore, he naturally followed the ideals of the society that he resided in during a time of crisis.

The legacy of his art isn’t in doubt because Yokoyama Taikan produced many stunning pieces of art and he influenced many important artists. Throughout his life he was always looking for new ideas and angles. Hopefully, this article and the images on view will entice some readers to delve more deeply into his life.

http://etcweb.princeton.edu/asianart/timeperiod_japan.jsp?ctry=Japan&pd=Modern 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

February 4, 2012

Japanese art and Van Gogh: Japonisme, ukiyo-e and world religions

Japanese art and Van Gogh: Japonisme, ukiyo-e and world religions

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Art like religion is based on fusions because once the original art work or religion leaves the place it was born then new identities emerge. Also, prior to the fusion which takes place then images, ideas, borrowed thinking, and so forth, will emerge and a new philosophy or art form will borrow from the past. Therefore, artists like Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, and many more, who were influenced by Japonisme (Japonism), also fused their artwork based on realities that belonged to their world.

Mecca and the religion of Islam was born on Arab Paganism because Mecca was a holy place which existed well before the religion espoused by Mohammed. Not only this, but walking around a black stone many times clearly highlights animism and the same applies to many other areas. Judaism likewise borrowed from the Pagan world where Jews struggled to survive in a harsh and brutal world where war was all too common.

Similarly, the new Christian faith soon spread therefore Pagan Europe and Africa would leave a deep impact once the religion left the Middle East. New centers of Christianity in Armenia, Ethiopia, Egypt, Georgia, Syria, and other parts of the world, had rich traditions and just like Judaism and Islam the older Pagan world would influence many festivals and so forth.

The same applies to the deep-rooted Paganism of Tibetan Buddhism which often appears un-Buddhist because of the superstitious nature of many traditions. Indeed, the Buddha himself who never believed in a deity would probably be confused by the ritualism of Tibetan Buddhism. This isn’t unique to Tibetan Buddhism because all over the world you will have strong cultural traits which have left traces of past cultures and religions. Indeed, in Japan it is common for many individuals to have been blessed by the Shinto faith when very young, then get married under Christian traditions, and finally to die Buddhist.

Art and religion are two powerful areas whereby the old world survives or both can clash and compete.  After all, a member of the Van Gogh bloodline was murdered in 2004 in Holland by an Islamist because of making a film about Islam. Therefore, clashes of culture, religion, political ideas, and art, remain to be potent themes in many nations and Theo Van Gogh was murdered because of extremism in a democratic nation.

Also, when political or religious movements try to crush past culture and ideas then collective madness often takes place whereby freedom is crushed and the old world is destroyed. This notably applies to the Taliban world view and Pol Pot in the past in Cambodia because “year zero” and “year Mohammed” led to the crushing of all different thought patterns.

Therefore, Japonisme was based on the eye and not the concept or rich traditions which had evolved in Japan. Jules Claretie and Philippe Burty used the word Japonisme (Japonism) in the 1870s and the word applies to the influence of Japanese art and culture in this period of history on Western art.

On the Website of Artelino (www.artelino.comit is stated that “The term Japonisme came up in France in the seventies of the 19th century to describe the craze for Japanese culture and art. Van Gogh like so many other Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists was one of the admirers of Japanese art. The Japanese influence is obvious in his art work.”

In the 1860s ukiyo-e became very popular in the art world and Post-Impressionists and Impressionist artists marveled at the many aspects of this art form. Also, the abundance of ukiyo-e and the variety of artists who produced this art form meant that western artists were rightly influenced. This applies to the richness of ukiyo-e and the variety of subject areas which opened-up a new art world in Europe and North America.

On the Van Gogh Gallery (www.vangoghgallery.comit is commented that “Japanese art, especially Japanese woodcuts, became a great influence on Van Gogh. When Van Gogh moved to Paris in 1886 he was introduced to impressionism and also explored Japonism. Van Gogh admired the bold designs, intense colors, and flat areas of pure color and he also appreciated the elegant and simple lines.”

“In 1887, Van Gogh made copies of two designs of Hiroshige, a Japanese landscape printmaker. One print was The Bridge in the Rain. Van Gogh copied the scene from a woodcut by Hiroshige. He filled the borders with calligraphic figures that he borrowed from other Japanese prints. Flowering Plum Tree is the other print by Hiroshige which Van Gogh copied. Another print that Van Gogh created in the same fashion is The Courtesan based on a piece by Japanese artist, Kesai Eisen. Van Gogh also gave this piece a frame with motifs from other Japanese prints. The difference between the originals and Van Gogh’s copies can be seen in the use of color. Van Gogh used brighter colors with more enhanced contrasts.”

The fact that Van Gogh based the above three art works on Hiroshige and Eisen may indicate that the more experimental and mysterious ukiyo-e world was not fully known to Van Gogh?  This is speculation because it could well be that Van Gogh preferred more conventional ukiyo-e. Therefore, like mentioned about the fusions of religion earlier it could well be that western artists were focused on limited aspects of ukiyo-e and this applies to areas which were transferable.

Van Gogh stated that “I envy the Japanese artists for the incredible neat clarity which all their works have. It is never boring and you never get the impression that they work in a hurry. It is as simple as breathing; they draw a figure with a couple of strokes with such an unfailing easiness as if it were as easy as buttoning one’s waist-coat.”

Dieter Wanczura comments that All things Japanese were suddenly stylish and fashionable. Shops selling Japanese woodblock prints, kimonos, fans and antiquities popped up in Paris like mushrooms. The Impressionist painters and Post-Impressionists like Claude MonetEdgar Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec or Paul Gauguin were attracted and impressed by Japanese woodblock prints. In 1875 Claude Monet created his famous painting La Japonaise, showing his wife dressed in a Kimono and holding a Japanese fan.”

Ukiyo-e and western art went in both directions but the initial contact period will have been based on a mirror which can’t fully show the complexion of the individual because of all the steam. Irrespective of this, it is clear that both traditions led to new creativity and for artists like Van Gogh the art form of ukiyo-e was very important in the later part of his life.

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

http://www.vangoghgallery.com/influences/japonisme.html

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

November 19, 2011

Japanese art and culture: Japan Ukiyo-e Museum in Matsumoto

Japanese art and culture: Japan Ukiyo-e Museum in Matsumoto

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

 

Japan is a nation which is very rich in art and culture and the uniqueness of the Shinto faith sums up this country in a certain way. After all, nearly all developed nations had their indigenous faiths swept away by Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, depending on geographic location and respective missionary work. However, Japan managed to preserve a faith which blended naturally with the landscape and wasn’t interested in strict social dogma.

Of course Buddhism impacted on Japan in the past but even today the indigenous faith continues to beat. Therefore, not surprisingly ukiyo-e shows many sides to Japan and this rich form of art also wasn’t abstract but belonged to the people because it represented many things.

Ukiyo-e in all its manifestations highlights the richness of culture in Japan because it shows images of history, nature, culture, theatre, mythology, the spirit world, stunning landscapes, the beauty of women, and other important areas like entertainment. Not only this, the sexual nature is extremely potent even by the standards of liberal nations in the modern world. Also, true to ukiyo-e, then shunga can be purely sexual and explicit or sexuality can be fused within mythology.

Therefore, ukiyo-e relates to the real world, magnificent landscapes, a world of powerful mythology and the spirit world. This is the beauty of ukiyo-e because at times it can be so chaotic but at other times the scene is extremely tranquil and placid.

Not only this, this art form also highlights the complexity of each ukiyo-e artist and shows the huge array of themes open to individuals like Hokusai, Hiroshige, and countless others.

The international appeal of ukiyo-e within the art world can be seen by the fact that Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Manet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, Renoir, Monet, Félix Bracquemond, Mary Cassatt, and others, were admirers of ukiyo-e. Therefore, the impact of ukiyo-e within the international art world grew once Japan began to open up just before the Meiji period in 1868 and after this important year in Japanese history. However, just like the chaotic theme within ukiyo-e, this recognition was at a time when this art form was facing new challenges from modernity, which would ultimately eclipse this art form. 

In Matsumoto you have the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum and on their website it states that “The average citizen’s mood of Edo period (1603-1867) was an extremely buoyant and joyful one –not the transitory, heavy atmosphere characteristic of the troubled middle age. The word “ukiyo-e” means “the picture of buoyant world” and incorporates in its meaning the common man’s daily pleasures, such as Kabuki plays, Geisha houses, and so on. The forerunner of Edo period prints was simple drawings that gradually developed into a wood-block, thus satisfying the growth of the demand.”

This comment is part true but also just like all cultures and nations you have many hidden realities which were not so tranquil. In an earlier article I commented that “Obviously the Edo period had darkness within the myths and this applies to the killing of all Christians (because of Buddhist elites and rulers) and brutal methods were used against criminals.  Also, stratification and other factors meant that the Edo period also had major negatives and art can often be used to over-simplify reality. This applies to art all over the world which may neglect serious issues and the marginalized or which may be constrained by cultural and political factors of the day.”

Yet, in general, ukiyo-e does give a major glimpse into the fascinating Edo period and the same applies to the revolutionary Meiji period. This also applies to natural things like fashion and how the creeping Western world was impacting on modern Japan.

More important, ukiyo-e wasn’t exclusive unlike aspects of Western art in the same period which had negative connotations to class, power, and other negative aspects. Therefore, ukiyo-e connected with people from all social backgrounds and this is the beauty of this art form and possibly this fact paved the way in the future for the richness of manga and Japanese anime.

If you love Japanese art then a visit to the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, is a must. On their website it is stated that “Japan Ukiyo-e (Ukiyoe) Museum is a print maker’s dream, holding the largest private collection of ukiyo-e (woodblock prints), paintings screens and old books in the world. The Sakai family has collected more than 100,000 pieces over several generations. English information is limited, but there is a pamphlet you can get at the front and the staff members are very friendly.”

Also, irrespective if you are an internal or external tourist, this museum is located in a beautiful part of Japan. Therefore, you can mix your visit with a lovely holiday and this applies to the stunning mountain scenery of Nagano Prefecture. Also, the museum is located in Matsumoto and this city is a fantastic base because you have a stunning castle and the environment and ambience of this city is very appealing. 

The Japan Ukiyo-e Museum is a real gem and for lovers of art then it is a paradise. Therefore, a visit to this museum will certainly heighten your knowledge of Japanese art, culture and the richness of ukiyo-e.

http://www.ukiyo-e.co.jp/jum-e/index.html  

The Japan Ukiyo-e Museum: 2206-1, Shimadachi, Matsumoto, 390-0852, JAPAN.

Open: 10:00 a.m.—5:00 p.m.

Closed on Monday

 

http://welcome.city.matsumoto.nagano.jp/contents03+index.id+7.htm  

http://welcome.city.matsumoto.nagano.jp/  

http://moderntokyotimes.com  please visit

August 28, 2011

Ogawa Kazumasa and Nobuyoshi Araki: traditional photos to sexuality

Ogawa Kazumasa and Nobuyoshi Araki: traditional photos to sexuality

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The photography of Ogawa Kazumasa provides a glimpse into the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in Japan.  He and others enable people to grasp aspects of Japanese culture and history in this period and Ogawa Kazumasa shows part of the struggle between tradition and modernization.

Nobuyoshi Araki, on the other hand, shows aspects of the sexual revolution which erupted in cities throughout the world. However, the images of Nobuyoshi Araki have a distinctive Tokyo feel.  The subject theme may be a million miles apart but both photographers are responding to a world which is changing.

Irrespective of the motives behind Ogawa Kazumasa and Nobuyoshi Araki, they both provide glimpses into the world they saw/see around them.  Neither are passive bystanders and their images show rich detail and labels are easy to put on individuals but the images have no labels because people will look at them for different reasons and draw their own conclusions.

Indeed, while most emphasis about Nobuyoshi Araki focuses on the sexual nature of his images this is also an illusion. After all, Nobuyoshi Araki is a very broad photographer and his themes are varied.

Turning back to the world of Ogawa Kazumasa then clearly events were changing quickly and the same applies to society and thought patterns.

Ironically it wasn’t old Japan and the samurai which was a threat to regional nations. Instead it was the modernized and Western influenced Japan which began the darkside of Japan’s militarization and colonial period.  It appears that a duality appeared within the psyche of military and political leaders in Japan and this applies to the threat of being the victim of Western encroachment and at the same time to join the Western club and taking over nations just like Western powers had done.

Ogawa Kazumasa witnessed this changing Japan and the liberal tendencies which also came about because of contact with the outside world.  Therefore, this world provided many opportunities for Ogawa Kazumasa who was born in 1860 and died in 1929.

The power of Ogawa Kazumasa can be witnessed within his images because often it is like looking into a mirror of a different world.  The images even when the theme is simplistic are powerful and time and motion appears to have stopped in order to capture the moment.

In my article called Ogawa Kazumasa: a photographer of style and panache, I comment that “His images remain vivid today and like Nobuyoshi Araki, but for very different reasons, both photographers provide images of a real Japan.  Ogawa Kazumasa provides images of a Japan which is caught between tradition and the onset of Western influence. “

“However, Nobuyoshi Araki focuses on the sexual nature of Tokyo in modern times but he does this with a rare quality and unlike the blandness of Kishin Shinoyama who lacks individuality or genuine creativity; Nobuyoshi Araki provides images which enlighten people to the changing nature of aspects of Tokyo culture and he does this with a rare talent.” 

“It is obvious that Ogawa Kazumasa and Nobuyoshi Araki are like chalk and cheese but in one way both are similar despite the huge differences of composition, style, time in history, techniques, different technology, art forms, and so forth; but both provide a style which opens up the subject matter that they enter and for Nobuyoshi Araki this applies to Tokyo and for Ogawa Kazumasa it applies to Japan.”

I think the analogy with Nobuyoshi Araki is true despite the complexity of both individuals and the images that they have given the world.  In the soul of Nobuyoshi Araki you can witness the hidden and sexual side of Tokyo in modern times but irrespective if this is hidden from most people it is part of reality.

The same reality was being shown by Ogawa Kazumasa but in a more natural form despite this the images of both individuals are powerful for contrasting reasons.  Ogawa Kazumasa shows a world in change but with many people clinging to the old world and others being victims of this changing world. This applies to modern concepts which challenged traditional crafts and obliterated many traditional based companies.

Like all societies in change you had many winners and losers and big business and modernization destroyed many. Also, more intensive labor markets uprooted people and when economic depression took route in Germany and Japan it gave the twin forces of fascism and communism a chance.

Ogawa Kazumasa was on the fringe of the real struggle between democrats, militarists, and communists in Japan and at the heart for many you had traditionalists in Japan who wanted to preserve the best of Japanese culture. 

In a way, but based on other factors, Nobuyoshi Araki, shows glimpses into a world where social morality, female emancipation, modern technology, greater freedom, sexual revolution of the 1960s, movement of people from the countryside to Tokyo, and a host of other factors, all merge together within negative criminal forces who saw an opening to exploit once more. 

Of course, for many images by Nobuyoshi Araki the theme also provides glimpses into genuine sexual urges and emancipation from conservatism and freeing the soul from all constraints.  

 

In my article called Nobuyoshi Araki shows the cultural side of Tokyo in the flesh. I comment that “…Nobuyoshi Araki goes much further because this famous photographer opens up a Tokyo which is often neglected or not imagined.  He also fuses his photography with the landscape of Tokyo amidst naked bodies or ladies being tied up and his imagery is clearly powerful.”

“Therefore, Nobuyoshi Araki is also focusing on the emptiness of entertainment districts and the sex industry; albeit from an erotic human form and the energy and visual nature of his photography expresses many emotions.”

“Like any artist; people will see different things within his photography and while some people will gain from his works others may reject him on various grounds.  However, if you look deeper into his work then Nobuyoshi Araki is providing a real glimpse into a Tokyo which exists and not only this, he does this by creating a rare energy within simplistic and complex themes.”

Ogawa Kazumasa was a founding member of Nihon Sashinkai (Japan Photographic Society) and his images show glimpses of the Meiji era and Taisho period. Therefore, Ogawa Kazumasa, Enami Nobukuni, Tamamura Kosaburo, and others in the same period, have provided images of high quality and more important, they have left a legacy whereby individuals can see aspects of old Japan and the changes which were taking place.

Ogawa Kazumasa and Nobuyoshi Araki also provide nostalgia despite their themes being very different.  Nobuyoshi Araki commented about nostalgia that “In a way, I guess so. People say photography should try to avoid being nostalgic, but I simply say photographs are nostalgic. The meaning of nostalgia for me is not sad memories or something that has disappeared; not just memories. For me nostalgia is like the warmth in a mother’s belly.”

Therefore, if you want to witness aspects of both worlds then Ogawa Kazumasa and Nobuyoshi Araki do this with great artistic skill. Irrespective of the motives or themes and the time difference between both individuals, they were blessed with rare skills. Also, they have shared their world and the world around them with vast numbers of people all over the world and Nobuyoshi Araki continues to express aspects of Tokyo.

In life (Nobuyoshi Araki) and death (Ogawa Kazumasa) both artists have connected with the world and when Nobuyoshi Araki passes away in the future he, just like Ogawa Kazumasa, will leave a valuable legacy.

http://oldphoto.lb.nagasaki-u.ac.jp/unive/  (Photo gallery and very high quality)

http://www.baxleystamps.com/litho/ogawa.shtml  

(Fantastic information about Ogawa Kazumasa)

http://www.artnet.com/artists/nobuyoshi-araki/ Nobuyoshi Araki

http://www.arakinobuyoshi.com/ Nobuyoshi Araki

 

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

Please note that Ogawa Kazumasa was born in Saitama prefecture which is near Tokyo but I have entered him under Tokyo because he was based on Tokyo and this is where his career began in the field of photography, printing, and publishing.