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Studio: international art — 25.1902

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Contemporary

OTES ON CONTEMPORARY
JAPANESE ART. BY PROF.
K. OKAKURA.

[Professor Okakura is now the President 01
the Bijitsu-in, or Institute of Fine Arts at Tokio,
which he has been the chief instrument in starting,
owing to what he regarded as the threatened
denationalisation of Japanese Art in the Fine Art
Academy under Government control, from the
Directorship of which he seceded a few years ago.
He was one of the Commission who visited Europe
with reference to the Arts some ten years ago, and
has been officially connected with Art-education in
Japan for many years. His ideas in such matters
are neither radical nor purely conservative. He
therefore finds himself in opposition to modern
Japanese artists of the European school of
painting, and at the same time out of har-
mony with those who would continue to follow
the methods and motives of ancient Japan.
He is supported by a number of the artists of
different schools, and the work produced at tire
half-yearly exhibitions of the Bijitsu-in is highly
creditable.]

The state of Japanese art at the present day
will be unintelligible without a knowledge of the
various developments which immediately preceded
the Meiji era, and the solution of which is still in
process of working out. The Meiji Restoration
may be said to be a.miniature Renaissance in the
sense that it had the same double task of returning
to the classic ideals and at the same time of
assimilating the new revolutionising ideas. But
the overwhelming power of Western science and
culture was far more formidable in shaking the
foundations of Eastern traditions than when the
first outburst of modern individualism and free-
thought disturbed mediaeval Europe. Thus the
natural outcome of these two forces in the field
of art, as in all other spheres of Japanese life
and society, produced three currents of ideas
— (i) The Classic or the Ultra-Conservative
School; (2) the Western School, which aimed
at introducing European art; (3) the New
School, which endeavoured to preserve the
characteristics of Japanese art while at the
same time adapting itself to modern needs and
notions.

(1) The Classic School.—The same spirit which
impelled Motoori and Hirata in their classic re-
searches (so well known through the works of
Aston and Chamberlain) to seek for a purer con-
ception of Japanese nationality, and a deeper
126

Japanese Art

knowledge of ancestral life, has also pervaded the
domain of art since the beginning of the century.
Extensive exploration of temple treasures and
study of old masters were carried on under the
liberal patronage of Shirakawa Rakuwo and Prince
Hotta, assisted by experts like Ritsuzan, Haru-
mura, and Buncho. The publications of Shinko-
jisshu and Tankakusosho, and the compilation of
Kogabiko and Fusomeigaden, and a host of other
archaeological works inaugurated a new age of
art criticism, freeing it from the trammels of
Tanyu-ism.

The Sumiyoshi Academy gained a new impor-
tance from the revival of the old Tosa style, closely
followed by Totsugen and Tameyasu. Kikuchi
Yosai made a place in history by his historical
painting. The Kano Academy, the orthodox
custodian of Tanyu tradition, caught the new
spirit. Isen and Shosen mainly devoted their
lives to copying ancient masterpieces in the col-
lections of Daimios. Even the Chinese School,
or Bunjin Ga, was aroused to a study of the older
Ming purists.

This renaissance of pre-Tanyu art was a potent
factor in the artistic mind towards the close of the
Tokugawa regime, and is one of the side issues of
that re-awakened historical consciousness of the
nation which succeeded in accomplishing the
Imperial restoration.

The first decade of Meiji was disastrous to art,
owing to the civil war and the necessary sacrifices
inevitable to this period of reconstruction. The
collections of many Daimios were dispersed and
temple treasures lost. Artists had to change their
profession in order to gain a living.

The first National Industrial Exhibition in 1877
must be mentioned as the first public effort directed
to the encouragement of art.

The thread of classic research was now taken up
again, under the auspices of the Imperial House-
hold Department. The Imperial collection at
Nara was classified and thrown open to the view
of eager connoisseurs, under the direction of Kuro-
kawa Mayori, son of the above-mentioned Haru-
mura, and many other experts. The Imperial
Museum at Uyeno was also organised in 1881.
About this time a society called the Riuchikai,
composed of artists and critics of the old school,
under the leadership of Count Sano, was organised,
and held periodical exhibitions of " old masters "
and competitions among living artists. Its primary
object was to inculcate knowledge ; but unhappily,
in its eagerness to recall contemporary art to the
classic standard, its tendency was to discourage
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