Undiscovered Japanese Art Equal to Ukiyo-e Illustrations One hundred Years Ago


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(A collection of The Kasho Museum)

(Photo by (c) Copyright (C) 2014 Yayoi Museum. All rights reserved.)

01_daiya-no-otome

What? You lead a petty life because you now design advertisement leaflets but you really wanted to be an artist. Oh, you talk nonsense. Why don’t you make your ad design more stylish and sophisticated art? You would say “It’s impossible”. What a poor boy! I give you a famous phrase “Behold the man”.

He is an internationally unknown but gifted painter, Kasho Takabatake who enhanced advertising design and book illustrations to the height of art. The reason why he does not appear in school text books is arrogant authoritarianism. It was around 100 years ago when a half century had passed since Japan began to be modernized. Then popular culture had reached maturity. This period of time is called “Taisho era” (1912-1926) which is named after the reign of the emperor Taisho. I would like to introduce the culture of the period including Kasho Takabatake.

 

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(A collection of The Kasho Museum)

(Photo by (c) Copyright (C) 2014 Yayoi Museum. All rights reserved.)

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Kasho Takabatake

 

The art began as advertisement.

 

 

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(A collection of The Kasho Museum)

(Photo by (c) Copyright (C) 2014 Yayoi Museum. All rights reserved.)

03_「新聞広告(中将湯)」津村順天堂高畠華宵[画]東京朝日新聞東京1904-1936(明治37-昭和11)54x40.8cm

The advertising of “Chujo-to” (1911)

 

 

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(A collection of The Kasho Museum)

(Photo by (c) Copyright (C) 2014 Yayoi Museum. All rights reserved.)

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The advertisement of bath powder (1930)

 

The name of Kasho came to attention when the newspaper ran this add illustration of the medicine for female complaints named “Chujo-To” (1911). Since then, he had been a struggling painter and changed his jobs several times. However, this advertisement of a forward-looking illustration spotlighted him. Before that, although people had had old-fashioned image of the brand, it made a refreshing change by the ad to be sold very well. Today, one hundred years has passed, and surprisingly this package of “Chujo-To” has printed a piece of work of Kasho.

Another illustration was used as an ad of bath powder. Like the goods above, this brand “Bath Clean” has been the most famous and popular in Japan.

We can easily guess Kasho had a big impact on people of that time.

 

 

Works of Kasho and Background of the Time

 

 

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(A collection of The Kasho Museum)

(Photo by (c) Copyright (C) 2014 Yayoi Museum. All rights reserved.)

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(A collection of The Kasho Museum)

(Photo by (c) Copyright (C) 2014 Yayoi Museum. All rights reserved.)

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The demise of the emperor Meiji in 1912, Japanese people felt, marked the end of the difficult and challenging times. Then, about a half century had passed since the long period of samurai had been overwhelmed by the Meiji Restoration (1868). The atmosphere was almost the same as the one of the United Kingdom when Queen Victoria passed away.

The Meiji era was really tough times. Japan was just a small agricultural country which developed the modern industry and coped with two big wars against China and Russia. In the next era of Taisho, fateful crisis of independence already disappeared.

The full-fledged government of parties came to perfection and the public gained a greater voice in politics and society.

At the center of Tokyo, buildings with elevators stood side by side. Many restaurants served western-style dishes. Newly-published magazines were sold well in bookstores. Infrastructure such as electric or gas services was constructed to a large extent. Probably, if we were transported back in time to the era, it would not cause much feeling of strangeness. Under the free atmosphere with the guaranteed freedom of politics and lively activity of economy, Kasho played an active role in art.

 

 

Transition of Life Mode in Kasho’s Art

 

 

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(Photo Licensor The Kasho Museum)

08_移り行く姿(春)

Spring

 

 

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(Photo Licensor The Kasho Museum)

07_移り行く姿(秋)

Autumn

 

The flavor of the time brought about changes in costume as well as in lifestyle. Japanese left off kimono and enjoyed dressing up in western-style clothes. Kasho created a big piece of folding screen with six panels in which he painted over sixty women in various costumes from the Meiji to the beginning of the Showa era (The span was over 70 years).

The masterpiece features women in clothes of four seasons from springs to winters, new and old. It should be highly admired not only as a work of art but also as historical materials.

 

 

Fusion between the West and Japan

 

 

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(A collection of The Kasho Museum)

(Photo by (c) Copyright (C) 2014 Yayoi Museum. All rights reserved.)

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(Image: 10)

(A collection of The Kasho Museum)

(Photo by (c) Copyright (C) 2014 Yayoi Museum. All rights reserved.)

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(A collection of The Kasho Museum)

(Photo by (c) Copyright (C) 2014 Yayoi Museum. All rights reserved.)

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When Japan accepted western culture after the end of the isolation policy, it is probably to say that the beginning then remained a matter of mimic. Over the years, what was unique to Japan was invented one after another.

The keyword of this time is the combination of the West and Japan. For example, suburban houses called “bunka-jutaku” (Bunka means culture.) gained enormous popularity among corporate employees. The characteristics are that a western-style drawing room and Japanese-style tatami-mats rooms were incorporated into one residence.

This social tendency fitted into cuisine culture. One was Japanese-style cutlet named “tonkatsu”. The recipe was that pork was deep-fried and sauce was poured on. Another was curry and rice with “beef” which must astonish Indians never eating it. Those Japanese-style “western foods” became popular with common people.

The entrance of women into the workforce become increasingly common in those days. Women played an active role on various occupations such as telephone exchange operators, typists and bus conductors. They also asserted themselves by new fashion.

Fresh-looking women at that time was portrayed brilliantly by Kasho who would have an aptitude for a journalist as well as a painter.

 

Literature in the “Taisho Roman” Style

 

 

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(A collection of The Kasho Museum)

(Photo by (c) Copyright (C) 2014 Yayoi Museum. All rights reserved.)

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(A collection of The Kasho Museum)

(Photo by (c) Copyright (C) 2014 Yayoi Museum. All rights reserved.)

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(A collection of The Kasho Museum)

(Photo by (c) Copyright (C) 2014 Yayoi Museum. All rights reserved.)

14_daria-shojo-kuni

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(A collection of The Kasho Museum)

(Photo by (c) Copyright (C) 2014 Yayoi Museum. All rights reserved.)

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The aesthetic consciousness at that time was embodied by Kasho in the form of painting. On the other hand, Junichiro Tanizaki described it as literature. He created a novel “Naomi” in 1924. In the work, an ordinary company employee and Naomi live in a used house designed by a painter, so the interior is like an atelier not in a conventional Japanese house. A woman, Naomi, who captivates the man, practices Western-style dance which was so fresh in Japan and asks him to eat beefsteak. The story unfolds in a lifestyle that was unthinkable and unimaginable before the previous days.

The cultural essence which flourished in Taisho era evolved into Tanizaki’s monumental work of “Makioka Sisters” which was published after the Second World War. Of four sisters, the oldest daughter lives in traditional Japanese-style house in Osaka. Contrarily, the second daughter leads her life in Ashiya which is still famous for a suburban high-class residential area. Her new home includes a Western-style drawing room with expensive furniture and tatami mats rooms. I don’t think I will be the only one to think the literature of Tanizaki and paintings of Kasho synchronize.

If only Kasho illustrated many pieces of Tanizaki works! This imagination enables us to appreciate the greatness and potentiality of art moving our human beings.

 

The Kasho Museum

 

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http://www.kasho.org/images/romankan1.jpg)

The Kasho Museum

16_The Kasho Museum

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http://www.kasho.org/images/cafe.jpg)

The Café Kasho

17_Cafe Kasho

This article runs many masterpieces of Kasho. To obtain the license is usually difficult. However, the Kasho Museum gives full endorsement to my work.

It is built calmly in Kasho’s birthplace, Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku. (Interestingly, the meaning of Ehime is “the lovely girl”). There are a shop selling goods printed by Kasho’s works and a tearoom named “Café Kasho” let alone permanent and special exhibitions.

Looking at the brilliant museum under the mantle of night, I can’t help but imagining that a soiree attended by artists and literary figures in the Taisho era is held inside the museum.

 

(Image: 18)

(A collection of The Kasho Museum)

(Photo by (c) Copyright (C) 2014 Yayoi Museum. All rights reserved.)

18_dance

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(A collection of The Kasho Museum)

(Photo by (c) Copyright (C) 2014 Yayoi Museum. All rights reserved.)

19_書斎の華宵

Kasho in his study room

 

 

My heartfelt thanks to the Photos offered by

The Kasho Museum and

The Yayoi Museum.


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