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Japanese art and Yuzo Saeki: the “outsider” who died in a distant land in an insane asylum

Japanese art and Yuzo Saeki: the “outsider” who died in a distant land in an insane asylum

Lee Jay Walker 

Modern Tokyo Times

The artist Yuzo Saeki gave much to the Japanese art world despite dying at the age of 30. Yuzo Saeki was born in 1898 and passed away in 1928. However, despite his time on this earth being brief he did much and left an intriguing legacy which also applies to areas outside of art. This applies to the way he was “thrown to the wolves” while feeling entrapped by health problems, cultural factors, and being abandoned by a culture which did not love him back.

In many ways, Yuzo Saeki represents the “outsider” which resides in all nations throughout the world, and within nations where the marginalized are unloved. Also, he highlights the complexity of culture and how individuals may adore aspects of a new culture – but this “new culture” isn’t able to respond in kind. Therefore, the society that abandoned him was the French culture that he admired and desired to belong. However, he always remained to be the “outsider” in a country which inspired him and pulled away at his tormented soul.

Yuzo Saeki provides a genuine glimpse into the “real separation” of “a love affair” which refused to acknowledge his deep love of Paris and France. This applies to many art pieces whereby the distance from his vantage point is noticeable by the confused lettering of certain places he depicted. Also, the manic and confused lines within some of his art may denote all the inner-confusions and utter desperation that he felt at times. Despite this, and being in extremely poor health, he could not pull himself away from a culture which inspired him to create stunning pieces of art.

Yuzo Saeki was born in the vibrant city of Osaka and from a very early age he fell in love with art. The Buddhist faith ran through his veins when a child because his father was a Buddhist priest. On top of this was the changing nature of Japanese society which also swept away many traditions and depleted many rich trades. In this sense, modernization in both France and Japan was ripping many lives apart. Yet, on the other hand both societies were providing new opportunities.

The Meiji and Taisho periods in Japan were full of mass contradictions because on the one hand a new modern dynamic was part and parcel of the “new” Japan. Opposite to this, was a new nationalist period whereby Japan would join “the Western club” and “Islamic club” of colonialism. Amidst all these contradictions was a very talented artist called Yuzo Saeki who meant no negative things towards anyone. Instead, he just wanted to focus on the vocation that he adored. Sadly, life is never that simple for some individuals and ultimately his vocation also created great suffering for Yuzo Saeki.

Western art in Japan was provided with a small “window” in Nagasaki by the Dutch during the Edo period. However, in the period of Yuzo Saeki no other city was more vibrant than Paris when it came to new art movements. The old world of influence from China and Korea was on the wane for many artists and the same applies to the rich traditions of Japanese art. Therefore, the pull of Western art was extremely strong for Yuzo Saeki and in time Paris and France would become “a love affair” with “a poison chalice.”

It must be stated that many other Japanese artists didn’t suffer the same fate in France. Given this, it is clear that the deep passion within Yuzo Saeki was extremely unique but what tipped everything in the wrong direction near the end, applies to the tragic circumstances of his life. This notably applies to poor health; poverty; alienation in a country he adored; mental exhaustion because he could feel “the gates of death beckoning;” isolation; and trapped by his own “love affair” with a culture which was alien to him despite being familiar with France.

In an earlier article I state that all “…these negatives conspired together because at the age of 30 Yuzo Saeki died in destitution in a mental hospital in France. The culmination of tuberculosis, a nervous breakdown brought on by overwork, limited means to survive, still painting outside despite worsening health conditions and other factors; all led to a very sad ending of what should have been a bright future.”

It is easy to imagine Yuzo Saeki eating inadequately based on poverty while at the same time coughing up blood because of tuberculosis. Near the end he manically painted new pieces of art because he felt “the gates of death.” Therefore, even when the weather was negative he continued to paint while bringing up blood would have interrupted him from time to time.

This meant that the reality of different thought-patterns, diverse movements within the respective art scenes of both France and Japan, and other complex factors, could easily “swallow up” individuals who were beset by various issues. Given this, when Yuzo Saeki needed guidance and support he had nobody to help him in a distant land. His “moment in time” was very different to the norms of the art scene in Paris and different cultural factors meant that he was isolated internally.

The final year alone in France was a far cry from 1924 when he moved to this nation with his wife and young daughter. Then he at least had the home comforts to placate the other “love affair” which didn’t love him back.

Michael Brenson commented in the New York Times that “When European art began to question its own traditions, however, as it did increasingly during and after World War I, there was a potential for trouble. Artists could find themselves with neither a European tradition to learn from nor a Japanese tradition to hold onto. When Saeki Yuzo, who is perceived in his country as a tragic hero, the Japanese van Gogh, died at the age of 30 in an insane asylum in Paris in 1928 – perhaps a suicide – he had been trying to paint in this void. Saeki continues to be an example to Japanese artists abroad of the difficulties in reconciling East and West…His paintings reflect his isolation. His cafe windows and stores are filled with signs, some illegible. In his “Snowy Landscape,” figures are on the verge of illegibility. His signs seem like scars of an internal pressure to resolve a conflict between the independence and picturesque subject matter of Paris and a dependence upon his native calligraphic and woodcut tradition.”

The comments made by Michael Brenson are extremely illuminating because it paints a picture of an artist who is trapped by the cultural realities of both nations. At the same time, he appears to notice his isolation and withdraws from a distance whereby the signs are often illegible. However, it is not only the signs which sometimes become illegible because also the human form enters a dark and sinister world where the scars of life are all too real.

Yuzo Saeki also highlights the “outsider” who never can belong despite his love of the host nation. This shared experience can be felt by individuals throughout the world who often feel the same pressure and isolation. Often, it may not always be the host nation because much can depend on cultural differences and certain “norms” which clash strongly in some cultures.

However, with the visible signs of tuberculosis, the mental strains of creating more art pieces because of the knowledge that death was getting nearer, and the grind of daily poverty pulling away at him; it is clear that nobody stepped in . Therefore, not one single individual in Paris cared enough to help Yuzo Saeki to the full. This culminated in the sad reality that his passionate “love affair” was one way because in his “time of need” he was abandoned to the ravages that befell him.

In the end Yuzo Saeki sacrificed his life and his family because he died based on the factors that entrapped him and took away his life. This applies to tuberculosis, poverty, and suffering from a mental breakdown. Michael Brenson also hints that he may have committed suicide in the end. However, the fact that this is debatable highlights the reality that Yuzo Saeki had been “thrown to the wolves.” Therefore, near the end he was just “another number” who was unloved and who died in an insane asylum in a distant land.

 

http://www.art.com/gallery/id–a228566/yuzo-saeki-posters.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/1987/12/25/arts/when-japan-s-art-opened-to-western-winds.html

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fa20070301a1.html

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2012 in EUROPE, Japan

 

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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 kimonoduring 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.

 

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

http://www.hanga.com/bio.cfm?ID=36

http://www.vernegallery.com/japanese-prints/Ito-Shinsui/32

http://frclarke.com/shinhanga/shinsui/shinsui.html

http://www.hanga.com/series.cfm?ID=29 

http://fujiland-mag.blogspot.jp/2010/10/exhibition-shinsui-ito.html

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com 

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2012 in Japan

 

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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

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Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Japan

 

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Japanese art: Yuzo Saeki and “At Eternity’s Gate” by Van Gogh

Japanese art: Yuzo Saeki and “At Eternity’s Gate” by Van Gogh

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Shortly before Van Gogh died he painted “At Eternity’s Gate” in 1890 after doing the same image as a lithograph eight years before. The image is extremely powerful and the meaning can be transformed to mean many things. However, the initial impression during the first few moments of seeing this image conjures up thoughts related to despair, alienation, abandonment, and a person who is at the end of their rope.

This reality connects the tragic end of Yuzo Saeki but perhaps without an “Eternity’s Gate?” After all, Yuzo Saeki died in a strange land, isolated, confused, and with his mind wandering from the desire to paint more before “the gates of death” would take him from this world.

Yuzo Saeki, just like Van Gogh during his lifetime, experienced severe mental health problems during his final months on this earth. Therefore, this gifted artist from Japan died at the age of 30 because of multiple factors. This applies to having a nervous breakdown, tuberculosis which was eating away at his health, massive overwork, poverty, alienation from reality, and other factors which took away his life.

In this sense, “At Eternity’s Gate” by Van Gogh connects these two extremely gifted individuals because if you replace the image with a 30 year old man, in a room more sinister and frightening and coughing up blood; then an image into the last moments of Yuzo Saeki can be seen. However, even more disturbing is that Yuzo Saeki died in France where cultural differences in this period were enormous and when institutions were “more dark and foreboding.”

Therefore, Yuzo Saeki gradually slipped away from this world by being isolated, alienated, in destitution, and with little care from others in Paris if he died or lived. At home, he had a family which was deeply concerned but his reality in the last few months must have been like Dante’s hell.

Van Gogh died at the age of 37 in 1890 while Yuzo Saeki was born eight years later in 1898. If “a tortured soul of a genius” could migrate and transcend itself into an equally “troubled soul” in the final year of his life, then it certainly entered Yuzo Saeki. Of course, many individuals reject heaven and hell and the transmigration of the soul. However, the utter despair of Yuzo Saeki during his remaining period on this earth in 1928 does mirror aspects of the painting “At Eternity’s Gate” by Van Gogh. The same also applies to the troubled mind of Van Gogh when “the demons of life” entered his world.

Michael Brenson stated in the New York Times in an article called “When Japan’s Art Opened to Western Winds,” that “When European art began to question its own traditions, however, as it did increasingly during and after World War I, there was a potential for trouble. Artists could find themselves with neither a European tradition to learn from nor a Japanese tradition to hold onto. When Saeki Yuzo, who is perceived in his country as a tragic hero, the Japanese van Gogh, died at the age of 30 in an insane asylum in Paris in 1928 – perhaps a suicide – he had been trying to paint in this void. Saeki continues to be an example to Japanese artists abroad of the difficulties in reconciling East and West.”

Further down in the same article Michael Brenson comments that “His cafe windows and stores are filled with signs, some illegible. In his “Snowy Landscape,” figures are on the verge of illegibility. His signs seem like scars of an internal pressure to resolve a conflict between the independence and picturesque subject matter of Paris and a dependence upon his native calligraphic and woodcut tradition.”

Striking aspects of the comments by Michael Brenson applies to “died at the age of 30 in an insane asylum in Paris – perhaps a suicide,” “his café windows and stores are filled with signs, some illegible” and“His signs seem like scars of an internal pressure.”

Therefore, according to Michael Brenson not even the death of Yuzo Saeki is one hundred per cent known and this applies to what caused his death or if he killed himself. This fact brings back the image of “At Eternity’s Gate” by Van Gogh but with the backdrop being more sinister and perhaps with Yuzo Saeki being shriveled up in the corner of a cold and dark room. After all, it appears that nobody in Paris really cared about how he died in the final moments of his life – and this is indeed sad.

Also, the image of “At Eternity’s Gate” shows an individual in despair and Yuzo Saeki certainly felt the same pains and abandonment. Not only this, were the signs illegible in some of the art work by Yuzo Saeki because he felt alienated, rejected, and because he feared about upsetting local people?  Or was it a natural sign that he felt trapped between two worlds, a natural aspect of his art, the fact that he could feel “the gates of death,” or did it signify his growing inward feeling that he didn’t belong?

In an earlier article I wrote about Yuzo Saeki I comment that “…despite all the artistic, political and cultural convulsions which befell Yuzo Saeki, along with suffering from tuberculosis, he still produced some truly amazing art. Therefore, the real tragedy of the life of Yuzo Saeki is that he didn’t have enough time to escape the trappings of two cultures which were pulling away at his artistic soul.”

Van Gogh also had an intense struggle between religion and rejection in several areas of his life which led to emotional instability. Given this, Van Gogh and Yuzo Saeki share internal convulsions because of different factors and both fully understood poverty, feeling of alienation, rejection, and the darkness of asylum institutions.

Therefore, the image of “At Eternity’s Gate” by Van Gogh enables people to enter “a small glimpse” into the world of two extremely talented individuals.

 http://www.art.com/gallery/id–a228566/yuzo-saeki-posters.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/1987/12/25/arts/when-japan-s-art-opened-to-western-winds.html

http://moderntokyotimes.com/2012/01/24/japanese-art-and-yuzo-saeki-a-stunning-flower-which-died-too-young/ Yuzo Saeki

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

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

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Posted by on February 18, 2012 in EUROPE, Japan

 

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Japanese art and Yuzo Saeki: a stunning flower which died too young

Japanese art and Yuzo Saeki: a stunning flower which died too young

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Yuzo Saeki was born in 1898 and died in 1928 at the tender age of 30 but despite his short time on this earth he left a rich legacy. He was born in Osaka which is a vibrant city in Japan and from an early age he was besotted by art. His father was a Buddhist priest and with all the changes taking place in Japan during the Meiji and Taisho era then this was a great time to experiment with different art styles.

In the Edo period the rich traditions of art from China and Korea maintained its vitality despite major restrictions being imposed on the people of Japan during this period of history. However, influences from other nations did creep into Japan and this notably applies to art from Holland because of “a window” which was kept open in Nagasaki. Therefore, before the Meiji Restoration of 1868 many artists in Japan had been influenced by artists from Western nations and in time many European artists would become influenced by Japanese art.

Another great artist called Ito Shinsui (1898-1972) was also born in 1898 like Yuzo Saeki and both artists produced stunning art. Ironically, while poverty led to the start of a bright career for Ito Shinsui after his father became bankrupt, the other side of the coin would beset the final years of Yuzo Saeki.

Ito Shinsui had been forced to abandon school at an early age because of monetary problems but this led to his talent being unearthed after taking up an apprenticeship at a printshop. However, while poverty opened up a new world for Ito Shinsui the opposite would engulf Yuzo Saeki during a period of terrible health. Therefore, these negatives conspired together and at the age of 30 Yuzo Saeki died in destitution in a mental hospital in France. The culmination of tuberculosis, a nervous breakdown brought on by overwork, limited means to survive, still painting outside despite worsening health conditions and other factors; all led to a very sad ending of what should have been a bright future.

Yuzo Saeki died in terrible circumstances in 1928 and this was a far cry from 1917 when he moved to Tokyo and all seemed calm in his life. He had been influenced greatly in his early years by Kuroda Seiki and studied under Takeji Fujishima in the capital of Japan. Within a few years of living in Tokyo he would get married in 1921 to Yoneko Ikeda who also was a fellow artist. Therefore, this period of his life was on an upward curve and in 1924 he moved to France to further his career with his wife and young daughter.

However, while the move to France was an all too familiar path for many international artists in this period, it also could be a pitfall given the cultural differences and thought patterns of Japan and France.  Michael Brenson commented in the New York Times that “When European art began to question its own traditions, however, as it did increasingly during and after World War I, there was a potential for trouble. Artists could find themselves with neither a European tradition to learn from nor a Japanese tradition to hold onto. When Saeki Yuzo, who is perceived in his country as a tragic hero, the Japanese van Gogh, died at the age of 30 in an insane asylum in Paris in 1928 – perhaps a suicide – he had been trying to paint in this void. Saeki continues to be an example to Japanese artists abroad of the difficulties in reconciling East and West.”

Further down in the same article by Michael Brenson called “When Japan’s Art Opened to Western Winds,” he comments that “Saeki Yuzo went to Paris with his family in 1924. His paintings reflect his isolation. His cafe windows and stores are filled with signs, some illegible. In his ”Snowy Landscape,” figures are on the verge of illegibility. His signs seem like scars of an internal pressure to resolve a conflict between the independence and picturesque subject matter of Paris and a dependence upon his native calligraphic and woodcut tradition.”

These words by Michael Brenson highlight the major problems facing artists like Yuzo Saeki in this period of history. Also, given the climatic reality of worsening his tuberculosis, suffering from a mental breakdown and dying destitute in a mental hospital; then it would appear that his ultimate demise was part self-induced, part-tragedy, and fused with huge cultural differences and heavy demands which took its toll on both his body and mind.

Of course many bright moments must have happened in France because he couldn’t wait to return. However, ultimately many factors would conspire and his life would be cut short and people can only guess about what his real legacy would have been if the cards had fallen kindly.

Matthew Larking in The Japan Times comments in his final paragraph that “In France, Saeki was a progeny; in Japan, an innovator. Modernism was generally at the mercy of the culture looking at it. Saeki’s essential contribution, while very short-lived, was to usher in a period in Japanese Modernism that overthrew the pre-existing reliance on the Impressionist model and encouraged freer Fauvist Expressionism.”

However, despite all the artistic, political and cultural convulsions which befell Yuzo Saeki, along with suffering from tuberculosis, he still produced some truly amazing art. Therefore, the real tragedy of the life of Yuzo Saeki is that he didn’t have enough time to escape the trappings of two cultures which were pulling away at his artistic soul.

http://www.art.com/gallery/id–a228566/yuzo-saeki-posters.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/1987/12/25/arts/when-japan-s-art-opened-to-western-winds.html

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/fa20070301a1.html

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Japan

 

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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.

 

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

http://www.hanga.com/bio.cfm?ID=36

http://frclarke.com/shinhanga/shinsui/shinsui.html

http://www.hanga.com/series.cfm?ID=29

leejay@moderntokyotimes.com

http://moderntokyotimes.com

 
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Posted by on January 18, 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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