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JAPANESE WESTERN-STYLE PAINTING
Western-style Paintings of the Meiji Era
Western-style Paintings of the Taishō Era
Western-style Paintings of the Shōwa Era
The Ishibashi Foundation Collection
1908-09, Oil on canvas
Important Cultural Property Fujishima painted this image of a woman, using a model, during his stay in Italy. He was evidently strongly attached to the painting, with its connections to his memories of Italy, and refused to part with it, keeping it in his studio until the end of his life. The white veil and black fan are thought to reflect the influence of a taste for things Spanish. The brushwork in the veil and fan are packed with a sense of speed and power, while the face, especially the nose and cheeks, are filled with a limpid gentleness. Fujishima used a translucent blue for the shadows and bright pink for the highlights of the left check. The red of the firm lips and blue of the eyes are also striking. While Fujishima worked with a restricted set of colors in this painting, the bright hues he deliberately placed here and there enhance its charm.
1890, Oil on canvas Kuroda Seiki created this painting in the rural village of Grez, in 1890, while he was studying in France. His model, Maria Billaut, was the daughter of a farm family that also operated a butcher shop in the village. Before he returned to Japan in 1893, Kuroda had Maria model for a number of the paintings he produced in Grez. At the time of this painting, Kuroda was 23, Maria 19. Kuroda never told anyone about what feelings he had towards this woman from a country not his own, a woman a head taller than himself, a Meiji student abroad. But perhaps Kuroda, who was fond at the time of reading love stories by Alphonse de Lamartine, cherished memories of his youth and the young woman he knew in Grez.
Washing Place in Grez-sur-Loing
1901, Oil on canvas Asai created this painting during October, 1901, visit to the village of Grez-sur-Loing, in the outskirts of Paris, while studying in France. The group of works on autumn in Grez that he created during that visit is regarded as the crowning achievement of his time in Europe. Among them, this painting is regarded as one of his masterpieces in oils. Stimulated by the Impressionists, Asai was then at a major stylistic turning point sparked by his visit to Grez. In this painting, his focus on the washerwoman, a laborer, is quite characteristic of the pre-Grez Asai, who had studied with Fontanesi, an Italian artist influenced by the Barbizon school. Here, however, the artist’s interest seems to be directed more at depicting the reflections in the water and the light than the laborer herself. The brushwork and palette also call to mind Impressionist techniques.
A Gift of the Sea
1904, Oil on canvas
Important Cultural Property A group of fishermen are advancing to the left across the picture plane. They are carrying harpoons, and some are carrying large fish, apparently sharks. One is hoisted over a fisherman’s shoulder; others hang from the fishermen’s harpoons. Aoki painted this piece in the summer of 1904, when, having just graduated from the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, he went to the Mera coastline at Tateyama, on Chiba’s Boso Peninsula, with his friends Sakamoto Hanjiro and Morita Tsunetomo and his lover Fukuda Tane. He showed it that fall in the ninth Hakubakai exhibition. It appears that Aoki retouched the white faces of the two figures in the center of the canvas. The one facing towards the viewer seems to have an image of Fukuda Tane superimposed on it. This painting was one of the first Western-style paintings in Japan to be designated an important cultural property, in 1967.
Portrait of a Lady
1907, Oil on canvas A woman, playing a drum, is wearing a kimono with Genroku-era motifs; her hair is dressed in the old-fashioned style known as the tate-hyogo. In the background is a Rimpa-style bird-and-flower screen with gold ground. The model was Takahashi Chiyoko, spouse of Takahashi Yoshio (Soan), a tea practitioner who was also involved in the management of the Mitsukoshi Drapery Store (now Mitsukoshi Ltd.). At the time this painting was completed, Takashi was engaged in modernizing Mitsukoshi and, aiming at a contemporary revival of traditional motifs, was working out a plan to focus particularly on motifs from the mid-Edo Genroku era. The Western-style artist who complied with his wishes in creating this painting was Okada Saburosuke, whose studies in Paris had intensified his fascination with traditional Japanese culture upon his return. Takahashi’s plans and Okada’s interests combined in this work, which was used in a Mitsukoshi poster that was used throughout Japan.
1922, Tempera on canvas Kishida produced many paintings entitled Reiko, with his daughter as the model. This painting, formerly in the collection of the Shirakaba poet Kinoshita Rigen, has the inscription “By Ryusei, March 28, Mizunoe-inu” at the left edge. It was painted in 1922, when Ryusei was 30 and Reiko seven. Reiko is wearing a white cloth around her neck because she had a cold. Kishida’s diary entry from the previous day states that after Shigeru stretched the absorbent canvas received from Tsubaki Sadao, he tried again working in tempera, which he had given up in frustration six or seven years earlier. He wrote, “This time, I didn’t find it difficult at all. In fact, the effect is extremely good.” Pleased with the process, he noted that he planned to finish the painting the next day, “To make it a bit more interesting.”
1919, Oil on canvas Sekine is believed to have painted this portrait of his youngest brother, Takeo, then six, during the last six months of the artist’s life, before his death at the age of 20 years and two months. The impoverished Sekine often painted over his old canvases, as he obviously did in this case. He had begun executing a design in which two women are walking side by side, but for some reason quit before finishing it, cut the canvas in two, and reused the lower half for this portrait. He had probably used the vivid cinnabar red in the first painting as well. It was his favorite color, one that became almost synonymous with him. The intense contrast between the red and the clear blue of the background gives a sense of the artist’s longing for life.
Café Terrace with Posters
1927, Oil on canvas This work depicts a café near Saeki’s studio, in Paris’s 14th arrondissement. The inscription “UZO SAHEKI/ A PARIS/ NOV 27/ HOTEL DU MARCHE” at the upper right tells us that Saeki painted it in November of 1927, during his second visit to France. During that period, many of his works include lettering, in swift, dancing brushwork; some researchers of his work regard that brushwork as indicating the influence of Japanese calligraphy. Here the lettering has been recomposed decoratively to work within the painting as a whole and to serve an important function by adding motion to the composition. The vibrant colors of the posters and tables burst vigorously beyond their perimeters to create a bright, rhythmical effect.
Still Life with a Cat
1939-40, Oil on canvas© Fondation Foujita / ADAGP, Paris & JASPAR, Tokyo, 2017 C1490 Fujita produced this work during his brief third visit to Paris, in 1939, before he returned to Japan shortly before Paris fell to the Germans. The table laden with all sorts of foods might suggest fond memories of an age of abundance, free of war, but the subject matter also has religious significance, as well as showing the influence of traditional still life painting in Western art. The bird in flight and the cat hunting for its prey, however, are depicted in a characteristically Japanese style, while the black background functions to emphasize the planar quality of the painting as a whole rather than a Baroque sense of light and shadow.
Self-Portrait with a Hat
1924, Oil on canvas In 1921, after six months in France, Koide returned to Osaka with new habits: wearing Western clothing and eating bread and coffee for breakfast. Those were signs of his heroic resolve to alter his lifestyle to a Western mode in order to understand and tackle oil painting head on. In September of 1923, Koide lived through the Great Kanto Earthquake. The reality of having his world collapse in a brief moment was an enormous shock to Koide. That horrific experience proved a turning point for him; his canvases, which had been stuffed with numerous subjects, were suddenly cleared and ordered. This painting, from August of the following year, is of almost monumental size compared with most of Koide’s work, which tended to be small. From it we can see his self affirmation, his testimony that he was indeed a painter.
1932, Oil on canvas Roses were one of Yasui’s favorite subjects. Here the Imari vase and the vivid rose petals float against the plain black background. With his 1929 Seated Lady, Yasui achieved a style in which mellow colors cover the surface, differentiated into clear-cut contours. This work, painted three years later, illustrates his use of that new style in still life paintings as well. At first glance the brushwork seems offhand and bold, but the edge of the table, slightly angled upward towards the right, the subtle placement of the vase, tilting leftward, the rose petals, spreading in beautiful balance across the picture plane, the thickness of the gray tablecloth: all show us that Yasui had carefully worked out the composition and color plan. The result, however, is a painting free of rigid formality and brimming with robust beauty.
Three Grazing Horses
1932, Oil on canvas Upon returning to Japan in September, 1924, Sakamoto went to his hometown, Kurume, where his family was waiting, then moved to the city of Yame. There he established a studio and lived and worked until the end of his life. He began painting horses at about the time he moved there. He would head out to Aso, Unzen, and other parts of Kyushu in search of a horse that appealed to him, sketch it, and then work on the painting back in his studio in Yame. He was enthralled by the forms of horses, bathed in the sunlight, dappled with so many colors. Sakamoto showed this painting in the nineteenth Nika Exhibition; it was purchased by Ishibashi Shojiro. It has been restored twice, by the artist’s own hand, since the opening of the Ishibashi Museum of Art, once in September, 1956, and once in March, 1966.