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C.B. Liddell
For C.B. Liddell's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Aug 9, 2016
The colorful combination of power and art
Each part of Italy has its own character, but Venice has always been something special and unique. While much of Italy was reduced to insignificant statelets, for much of the peninsula's history Venice was quite the reverse. It projected power far across the Mediterranean and ran a large commercial empire that brought it into close contact both with northern Europe and parts of Asia.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Aug 2, 2016
The earliest memes also had humor
The curators at Tokyo's National Museum of Western Art (NMWA) have decided that Japan, a country well-known for its own print art, should know more about the print art of Europe. In this endeavor, they have chosen the work of Israhel van Meckenem (c. 1445-1503), a Germanic print artist from the Lower Rhine area, active in the latter half of the 15th century.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jul 19, 2016
The Renaissance rebranding of Italy
Every country tries to find an image that its people can believe in and unite around. Britain recently decided to become an island in its own right instead of a "Continental" country, tied mainly to the European Union. Japan, meanwhile, still seems caught between its manufacturing past and a perceived need to rebrand — with the help of the 2020 Olympics — as a successful knowledge economy.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jul 5, 2016
Seeing Greece, before its civilization peaked
We are only a month or so away from the Rio Olympics. While the world will soon be focused on that, in Japan many will also be thinking four years ahead to the Tokyo Olympics. It is easy, then, to see why the Tokyo National Museum is holding "A Journey to the Land of Immortals: Treasures of Ancient Greece."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jun 14, 2016
Renoir's true colors could rescue him from the haters
It's been a few years since the last big Pierre-Auguste Renoir exhibition in town. The last one, if I remember correctly, was "Renoir: Tradition & Innovation" at the National Art Center Tokyo (NACT). That brought over the French impressionist's "Dance at Bougival" (1883), an excellent painting, but padded out the rest of the show largely with inferior works, leaving a generally negative impression — no pun intended.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
May 31, 2016
A liberating walk through the woods
Painters and trees have a lot in common. Both are light-catchers: the painter looks at the world around him and tries to capture it, while a tree catches the light in order to grow. Trees are also part of the world that many artists see and often depict. So, there is quite a lot of synergy at the Togo Memorial Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Museum of Art's latest exhibition — "Trees in French Landscape Paintings, 1850 to 1920."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
May 17, 2016
Caravaggio: Art that has been through the wars
"In Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
May 10, 2016
Ito Jakuchu: Quite the rare bird
The best time to see Ito Jakuchu's work was back in 2000 or 2006, when there were two major exhibitions that aimed to re-evaluate the underappreciated 18th-century Kyoto painter.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Apr 5, 2016
Kuniyoshi and Kunisada: When great minds think a little differently
When Japan opened up to the Western world in the 19th century, popular artistic tastes were dominated by two great woodblock print artists, Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) and Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864). Contemporaries, keen rivals and both members of the Utagawa School, the pair had the inventiveness and flexibility to keep abreast of changing tastes as well as the whims of the censors.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Mar 29, 2016
The illuminating nature of Emile Galle
The Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum has always had a connection with French glassware. After all, almost the first thing you see as you enter through the front entrance is a set of glass-relief doors with an angel motif. These were created by the famous French glass artist Rene Lalique as part of the original Art Deco design, when the building was created in the 1930s as the residence for Prince Yasuhiko of the Imperial Family.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Feb 16, 2016
What do you know about the flowers that grow in an English royal garden?
There is a fascinating story to be found at the "English Garden" exhibition now on at the Panasonic Shiodome Museum — that is if you look closely. That tale is of botanical imperialism, namely the desire by the expansionary spirit of the British Empire to send artists and botanists to far-flung, exotic lands to draw, paint, record, collect and occasionally transplant various plant species to new environments.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Feb 9, 2016
Dutch painters cut from the same canvas
The first noticeable thing about the exhibition "Vermeer and Rembrandt: the Masters of the 17th Century Dutch Golden Age" at the Mori Arts Center Gallery is the juxtaposition of the names. Vermeer's name comes before that of Rembrandt, marking him as the leading Dutch artist as far as the modern art public are concerned.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Feb 2, 2016
Getting sentimental about the Pre-Raphaelites
Sometimes even provincial cities in the West seem to have much greater public art resources than Japan's capital. This is driven home by a video at the "Pre-Raphaelite and Romantic Painting from National Museums Liverpool" exhibition now on at Tokyo's Bunkamura The Museum.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jan 19, 2016
The frayed edges of modern Japan
In the Edo Period (1603-1868) and the years that followed, Japan made strenuous efforts to bring together its patchwork of feudal regions into a strongly centralized state with a unified culture. Accordingly, the nation now is one of the most homogenous in the world. But there are a couple of places where this strongly mono-cultural model begins to fray.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Dec 15, 2015
Smiling between the lines of ukiyo-e
Some art collectors enjoy the eclectic, picking up art pieces opportunistically — even randomly — usually when they find something at the right price. Others have more streamlined tastes and focus on a theme or genre, building up more consistent collections.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Dec 8, 2015
Real beauty lies in rustic reality
French society and culture has always had a fascination with the exotic, going back to the Chinoiserie of the rococo period, the Orientalist fascination with the harems and slave markets of the Middle East, and the Japonisme of the 19th century. One might even suspect that this trait could represent a certain vacuous element in French society.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Oct 20, 2015
Monet's experiments meet his masterpieces
To anyone familiar with art exhibitions in Japan, it is clear that Impressionism is one of the most well-known and most-loved of all the "isms" and movements of Western art. The name of the movement is believed to have come from a 1872 painting by Claude Monet titled "Impression, Sunrise." When it was exhibited at a show in Paris in 1874, its title was picked up by unsympathetic critics and used to give the movement the name by which it has been known ever since.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Oct 13, 2015
Usugrow feels the art of skulls in his bones
With shows four times a year, Diesel Art Gallery in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward is one of the best free art venues in Tokyo and is well worth checking out. Located in the basement of the clothes brand shop, it puts on consistently good shows that steer clear of the pretentiousness of more "artsy" venues, while remaining edgy in the way that shop-supported art spaces are seldom comfortable with.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Sep 29, 2015
The changing views of landscape painting
There are many ways in which an art exhibition can make a positive impression, but the two main ones are through the quality of the artworks and the narrative that ties these together. The present exhibition at Bunkamura The Museum is rather weak on the first element but much stronger on the second.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Aug 11, 2015
There's a residual energy to Cai Guo-Qiang's explosive works
Japanese artist Taro Okamoto once said, "Art is an explosion." This was despite the fact that his own works were carefully planned and developed, as the exhibition "Taro Okamoto's Paintings: From Impulse to Realization" at the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art made clear back in 2006. Okamoto's famous dictum, however, literally applies to the New-York-based Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang, who is famous for using gunpowder explosions to distribute colors and other effects across his expansive canvases.

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