Shimomura Kanzan kept <em>nihonga</em> clean and cool

Jan 8, 2014

Shimomura Kanzan kept nihonga clean and cool

Art can sometimes play a balancing or compensatory role in society, giving voice to neglected or superseded aspects of a culture. For example, the neo-feudalist ethos of Pre-Raphaelitism and the pastoralism of Impressionism developed against a backdrop of increasing urbanization and materialism. This can ...

Best of the West tops this year's major shows

Dec 25, 2013

Best of the West tops this year's major shows

Japan occupies an odd niche in the art world. Its own indigenous artistic traditions are balanced against an almost fanboy fascination with certain aspects of the canon of Western art, while there is an often half-hearted attempt to stay plugged into the global contemporary ...

The noisy posters of the silent 1920s

Dec 11, 2013

The noisy posters of the silent 1920s

When the Communists seized control of Russia in late 1917, they found themselves in a difficult position. According to Marxist theory, the revolution should have happened hundreds of miles further west in one of the more industrialized countries, such as Britain or Germany, with ...

A modern view of a neglected Impressionist

Dec 4, 2013

A modern view of a neglected Impressionist

The French painter Gustave Caillebotte has suffered more than most from the fact that he wasn’t Monet, Manet, or Renoir. As one of the second-ranking Impressionists, he has long been in the shadow of these more famous names with which his career is associated. ...

Portraits of an artist as a young man — and an older one

Nov 27, 2013

Portraits of an artist as a young man — and an older one

Yasumasa Morimura is a weird mixture of curator, artist and simple art lover. Throughout his career he has selected famous portraits and paintings of people and then faithfully recreated them, with the exception of superimposing his own face on the subjects. This is both ...

Divided opinions on Divisionism

Nov 6, 2013

Divided opinions on Divisionism

By the time you get to the end of the Divisionism exhibition, now showing at the National Art Center Tokyo, you realize that this strand in the history of art is more about the journey than the destination. It’s like traveling through a world ...

Turner: Steering art toward Impressionism

Oct 30, 2013

Turner: Steering art toward Impressionism

One of the most impressive paintings at the “Turner from the Tate” exhibition now on at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum is “Spithead: Two Captured Danish Ships Entering Portsmouth Harbour” (1808). In some ways it is a run-of-the-mill, realist sea painting of the type ...

The importance of being Yokoyama

Oct 23, 2013

The importance of being Yokoyama

Big exhibitions of famous Japanese artists are usually held on important anniversaries of their birth or death. The Taikan Yokoyama exhibition now on at the Yokohama Museum of Art, however, breaks with this convention. Rather than marking the 150th, 100th or 50th anniversary of ...