A commonly heard accusation is that Japanese oil painters are followers rather than innovators. It is a criticism that has been made against many early adopters in this country — be they filmmakers, fashion designers, chefs or rock musicians — and one that has even come from painters’ compatriots.

When discussing the Fusain-kai exhibition of 1912, in which the artists presented an avant-garde Fauve style, Hakutei Ishii, a painter of yoga (Western-style paintings), said: “Most of the works at best rank with the works of the most minor artists of the Salon D’Autumne.” Uchida Roan was equally skeptical about the exhibition: “First of all, they lack in originality. I cannot help feeling that they represent not their own impressions but instead reproduce Gauguin’s, Matisse’s and Cezanne’s.”

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