japonisme: 高澤圭一, 中西利雄 & Matisse

23 February 2012

高澤圭一, 中西利雄 & Matisse

in 1947, just after the war and the year i was born, two artists in japan were finding work, beyond their own "western-style" painting, as the painters of covers of women's magazines. since i first saw them in 2007 here, they have struck as very matisse-like. so i went out exploring.

closer examination proved me more accurate than i'd imagined. the two japanese artists whose work i most admired were toshio nakanishi and keiichi takasawa, i could find next to nothing about them in english, and the japanese translator (google) is pretty poor. but one thing i think i was able to ascertain was that the two that were my favorite were by keiichi takasawa, though they look nothing like his painting style (mostly of his wife, it is believed) which are not illustrated here. but there is similarity in style to his pamphlet on the kimono.

others were by toshio nakanishi whose painting style does look a lot his magazine colors. could i have misunderstood the japanese and these are really by nakanishi too?

but the similarities to matisse, not only in facial style and use of pattern, but in body language too. the outline is evident as are similar uses of flat color. though matisse, like frank lloyd wright, denied he was influenced by japanese art, the truth, also as with wright, was inescapable. as nakanishi began to fill in the flesh, matisse began to simplify it.

and the connections prove it not far-fetched. keiichi takasawa studied with foujita tsugeharu and both soon became integral parts of the paris art scene.

toshio naka- nishi was part of a group of rebellious artists, reaching to the west to grow parts of themselves. one like-minded artist, bijutsu shinron, said, "Of course one has to imitate. Even if we want to create works that are uniquely Japanese, we still need to look at Western paintings in order to supplement our own deficiencies. And I don't believe we have to set out to be 'Oriental.' If we simply express ourselves, the results will be sufficiently 'Oriental,' I'm sure."

i find it quite interesting, the similarities each culture went through adjusting to the new influences, the new style. another young japanese artist, koide narashige, was moved to comment, "I often hear that Japanese women are rather shapeless and that nudes other than those of Western women are worthless. Those who say so want to make fun of shapes of women depicted in Japanese oil paintings.

I do not know whether theirs is indeed the right form of the human body, but if a French beauty with thin hair about her lips comes at a distance of one foot from me, then, before being struck with her grace, I will be overwhelmed by her strange exaggerated nose, her deep-set piercing eyes and each pore of her rough skin, and I will possibly begin weeping. Some people despise short legs in view of a certain sort of individualism. In a streetcar I see fat young women sitting, their stocky legs not reaching the floor, but I can regard them as quite charming."


Matisse, too, when the fingers
ceased to work,
Worked larger and bolder,
his primary colors celebrating
The weddings of innocence and glory, innocence and glory

when the cataracts blanketed his eyes
Painted swirls of rage,
and when his sight recovered
Painted water lilies, Picasso claimed

I do not seek, I find,
and stuck to that story
About himself,
and made that story stick.
Damn the fathers.
We are talking about defiance.

Alicia Ostriker

Ostriker"Matisse, Too" from Poetry Magazine 12/06.

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Blogger Gerrie said...

Dear Lily, what an interesting, scolarly essay, what great illustrations. Your memory must be equivalent to your pictures archive and research determination making postings as good as this one. Never learned so much in so little space. Enjoyed it very much, thanks! Gerrie

23 February, 2012 23:00  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

how very kind of you, gerrie! i wasn't sure i'd succeeded with this one at all as by the end of the day, i just didn't seem to fit in everything i thought i would, so thank you.

for many of these things, i just spend days and days lugging around books that are much too heavy, books i've head for decades, and finally reading them! then i go at the internet which sometimes reveals to me some of it's secrets.

24 February, 2012 07:29  
Anonymous Evan said...

I realize my replies often seem a bit out of left field- I consider them more like psychological free association tests...that said...

I couldn't help but think degrees of separation- Matisse could claim that he wasn't influenced by Japanese art, but who around him whose work he saw was? I think artists who deny that they are influenced by what's around them, including the work of their peers is in...well..denial. I can't help but be slightly amused by the fact that even if you (or Matisse) argue that he wasn't influenced by Japanese prints/art, he was certainly influenced by North African (Moroccan?) motifs...the irony being that art of the Victorian period with N. African motifs was considered to be Orientalism. So, the Orient played into Matisse's work in one way or other.
Great essay. Got to wonder, looking at shunga art, where Matisse got the idea that Japanese women "were rather shapeless".

24 February, 2012 10:33  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

left field? i hadn't noticed! but even if it's so, better than right field!!

matisse did admit the "oriental" influences, meaning morocco et al, but i see japanese easily as well, and so could any objective viewer. it's like a new language absorbed by living in it. it feels like your knowledge grows from within.

24 February, 2012 10:56  
Anonymous Rajah said...

First thank you for this great blog: it's a gold mine, deep and full of surprise. I live in Nancy, in the east of france, where during the earlies of the the XXth century, worked Gallé, Majorelle, Gruber, etc... There were inspired by the forms of the nature, you know that. Today, some Japanese visit our city, because of that. One other point: during that past time, Japanese artists were very interested with the impressionism, and later cubisme. For an artist, It's impossible to ignore that universal language... (sorry for my poor english...)

11 March, 2012 10:13  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

your english is actually so good that until you pointed it out, i thought you were a native speaker. i'm so glad you stopped by, rajah. it's quite interesting to learn that the japanese *still* come to nancy to marvel at their own influences!

you have inspired me; i will now go and add labels to every post dealing with nancy, and another for japanese impressionists.

it's my impression that in fact it was the natural progression of that very japanese influence that led to cubism as well.

11 March, 2012 12:17  

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