Japan art and Suzuki Shonen: Kyoto artist

Japan art and Shonen Suzuki: Kyoto artist

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Suzuki Shônen was born in the middle of the nineteenth century and died in 1918. Throughout his life, the influence of Japanese high culture emanating from Kyoto (his birthplace) – and the importance of China – are abundantly obvious.

His father was an established artist. Thus Shônen developed from a young age under the guidance of his father. In time, Shônen would create a more individualistic style. Hence, he refused to be constrained by the more conservative approach of his father.

In the above art piece by Shônen, the world of Taoism is witnessed through the lens of Japan. The Kyoto National Museum says, “The image of the immortal was particularly idealized within the traditional Chinese religion of Taoism. While Taoism itself was never widely practiced in Japan, its influence can be found in a surprising number of Japanese customs (such as the tradition of giving mid-summer gifts, or ochūgen, which derives from an annual Taoist ritual). Taoist immortals have always been popular subjects for paintings in Japan, where they symbolized the wish for or the celebration of longevity.” 

His father installed in Shônen the love of the past and the importance of Chinese and Japanese high culture. Hence, despite the modernization processes that occurred even before the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912) – and after the start of this period in Japanese history – they both sought to preserve the importance of the past.

The MET Museum says, “Together with his father, Suzuki Hyakunen, Shonen was one of the leading painters active in Kyoto during the Meiji period. After the country became more open to the West in the second half of the nineteenth century, they made efforts to preserve the subjects and style of traditional Japanese painting.”

He wasn’t afraid to turn his back on government involvement in the artistic scene. Hence, with the title of him being the “modern Soga Shohaku” in his lifetime – along with his flamboyant nature – Shônen provided the artistic scene with a notable individual.


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