Japan art: Cultural art during momentous political changes

Japan art: Cultural art during momentous political changes

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The artist Ishizaki Kōyō (1884-1947) hails from the prefecture of Toyama in Japan. He was the fifth born son of a merchant family. Therefore, from a very early age, his path was set and secure.

Kōyō studied under Yamamoto Koichi when he was extremely young. Thus his studies of rinpa (rimpa) art began in 1896.

In 1903, the year Koichi died, Kōyō began to study under Takeuchi Seiho in Kyoto. Hence his ongoing artistic development flourished in the high cultural settings of Kyoto.

His life was a far cry from many Japanese people who witnessed the convulsions of the Meiji Restoration (1868-1912). This relates to rapid modernization and a changing way of life for untold numbers.

Equally, in the realm of art, many Japanese artists of the Meiji era focused on Western art – irrespective of fusions – or more overtly. Yet, in the art and lifestyle of Kōyō, countless convulsions appear to have passed him by when viewing his art.

Thus in the art pieces in this article, it is difficult to imagine the pains and sorrow – and periods of modernization to the ravages of nationalism. Instead, it is like modernization, imperialism, nationalism, and war were all distant from Japan during his lifetime.

However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Hence, in the art of Kōyō, you feel high culture, privilege, continuity, and a clock ticking to a different beat.


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