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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(http://www.artelino.com) 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.

 

http://www.artelino.com/articles/yumeji-takehisa.asp

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

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Japan

 

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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.

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

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2012 in Japan

 

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