Art of Japan and Influence of France: Oka Shikanosuke and his Admiration of Henri Rousseau

Art of Japan and Influence of France: Oka Shikanosuke and his Admiration of Henri Rousseau

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


The dynamics of art in Japan from the Meiji Restoration of 1868 altered the artistic landscape of this nation forever. Ukiyo-e managed to survive for a set period because early Meiji artists of this movement had a period of enormous continuity to focus on. However, new artistic concepts, the growing influence of European art, technological advancements, changing thought patterns, travel opportunities, and other important factors, meant that a new art world was shaping modern Japan.


Oka Shikanosuke (1898-1978) not surprisingly took a familiar pattern because he moved to France in 1924. One can only imagine how Paris and other areas of France shaped his artistic view during the early period. Yet, it is clear that his love affair must have been great because he stayed until the outbreak of World War Two in 1939.


It is known that artists including Henri Rousseau and Odilon Redon impacted on the young Oka Shikanosuke. Indeed, the visual reality and immediate connection of Henri Rousseau on the art of Oka Shikanosuke is abundantly clear.


Other artists equally respected Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) including Georges Braque, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Pablo Picasso, Odilon Redon, and Auguste Renoir. It could well be that Henri Rousseau appealed to Oka Shikanosuke because this artist felt free from the usual constraints on many famous artists. At the same time, a new freshness and technical way of painting for Henri Rousseau meant that usual mundane cityscapes became invigorated by the pure simplicity and color schemes initiated by this independent artist.


I comment in a past article, “The path of Oka Shikanosuke was a million miles away from Henri Rousseau when it came to education and learning at famous institutions. During his time in France, he met many Japanese artists like Tsuguharu Fujita and others who were connected to the Ecole de Paris. Also, during his stay in France, he taught himself techniques related to oil painting.”


The artistic love affair held by Oka Shikanosuke towards Henri Rousseau meant that he introduced the art of this artist to a much wider general public in Japan. All this was possible to a much greater extent because of Suzuki Tsuneshi (1930-2000) who was the owner of the Pola Orbis Group. An aspect of this legacy culminating in the adorable Pola Collection that continues to attract art lovers. Pola Museum of Art


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