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Japan's homemakers are using art history classics to illustrate daily struggles on Twitter

by Reiko Naka

Contributing Writer

Homemakers in Japan have been using classic artworks to describe their daily routines — much to the delight of those on social media.

According to online magazine Pouch, the conversation began in May 2018 after a woman posted an image of Jacques-Louis David’s classic French revolution painting “The Death of Marat” on Twitter alongside a message saying that she had received a letter from her son’s elementary school asking her to prepare a lunch for that very same day because no food was going to be provided.


The wretched expression of the assassinated ideologist in the painting seemed to sum up her thoughts on the matter rather succinctly.

The post has been retweeted more than 25,000 times and “liked” by more than 50,000 users, with the hashtag #名画で学ぶ主婦業 (“meiga de manabu syuhugyo,” or “learning homemakers’ activities through prominent artworks”) trending on Twitter.

Kumiko Tanaka, a professor of art history and the vice president of Bunsei University of Art, helped to produce a book on the conversation on Twitter that followed this tweet in August last year.

Other examples on Twitter include a post of Sandro Botticelli’s “Pallas and the Centaur” that was accompanied by the question, “Are you even aware that you’re a father?” The submissive outlook of the centaur in the painting appears to capture the sentiment well, and the woman who posted it obviously has fairly disparaging views of her partner’s capabilities insofar as child-raising is concerned.

Another tweet, which is accompanied by an image of Jean-Francois Millet’s “The Gleaners,” includes the words, “I’m never going to let them eat the Baby Star Crispy Noodle Snacks again” in reference to a painting of three peasants in a field picking up stray stalks of wheat after a harvest.

Tanaka says the half-mocking interpretations of the paintings are “novel.”

“At first, I was surprised at how freely (the women) were appreciating the artworks,” she told the Asahi Shimbun. “Gradually, though, I found myself laughing alongside the posts and sharing feelings of empathy with them.”

In May, Tanaka helped to produce a second book that included tweets on the subject that had been posted since the first title came out.

Tanaka says the artworks that appear in both books have been selected for a particular reason and, more often than not, represent key paintings that help readers learn more about the art history throughout the ages.

“The Twitter users all seem to have a sharp, appreciative eye of good art,” she says.