Japanese art and Kawamura Kiyoo (1852-1934): Changing times but sublime continuity
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The Japanese artist Kawamura Kiyoo (1852-1934) created many amazing pieces of art during a period of rapid political change. He was born in the old world of the Edo Period (1603-1868) and he witnessed the modernization of the Meiji Period in its entirety (1868-1912). However, during the Showa Period, this distinguished artist witnessed the twin movements of nationalism and socialism that tore away at the soul of this nation.
Prior to the Showa Period that began in 1926, the liberalization of the Taisho Period (1912-1926) witnessed a more democratic and pluralistic approach to society. Hence, Kiyoo fully understood that just like art movements can have dynamic periods followed by a complete changed approach, then politically Japan entered a very diverse world based on different fundamentals. Despite this, Kiyoo remained true to the spirit of yoga art.
In other words, the lore of Western-style art impacted greatly on Kiyoo. After all, the old-world of ukiyo-e gradually faded during the Meiji Period despite many fine ukiyo-e artists in this period. Therefore, the lore of yoga art embedded in the traditions of Western artistic conventions, materials, and techniques meant the world to this exquisite artist.
His travels to America, France, and Italy in the early 1870s opened up a new world to Kiyoo because of the different development stages, cultural traits, thought patterns, and other important areas. Hence, on his return to Japan in 1881, one can only imagine how his world had altered from the old world of the Edo Period.
Despite the impact of Western-style art and his time in America and Europe, Kiyoo still used canvases based on bark or silk while focusing on a distinctively Japanese feel. This fusion worked eloquently for Kiyoo because he produced many exquisite pieces of art.
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