Optical investigation of “Portrait of KOYA Yoshio (Man Holding a Plant)” by KISHIDA Ryusei (National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo)
In the research project “Research on Modern Art in Terms of the History of Cultural Interaction” of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems, one aim is to conduct investigative research on cultural interactions, focusing on the East Asia region including Japan.
As part of that work, an optical investigation was carried out on October 16 for two oil paintings by KISHIDA Ryusei held by the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo: “Portrait of KOYA Yoshio (Man Holding a Plant)” (1916), and “An Apple Exists on Top of a Pot” (1916).
This investigation was carried in out only for works from the period when KISHIDA Ryusei was strongly influenced by European classic painters such as Albrecht Durer. Its purpose was to verify not only the design, but also the details of the picture surface such as technique and expression.
The smooth surface seen in classic European art was obtained by layering, using techniques such as tempera and oil painting, but KISHIDA Ryusei originally picked up these techniques from reproduction plates, and thus it is important to observe works from that time to determine whether he understood the techniques, and to further explicate the history of reception. The photography went beyond just shining uniform light onto the picture surface to enable visualization of the brush strokes of the painter and the current status of surface. Light was also projected at an acute angle from the left side of the work to enable understanding of the unevenness of the surface due to oil painting (photographer: SHIRONO Seiji, Artificer, Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems). Reflected near-infrared photography was also carried out at the same time. From the images obtained through this photography, it was possible to confirm that there were no traces of repainting, fumbling or other difficulties, and that the image of the painting was quite settled by the time the painting was executed.
This optical investigation was made possible through the cooperation of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo and the restorer SAITO Atsushi, and we would like to express our deep gratitude for their help. The results of this research will be published in The Bijutsu Kenkyu with the (provisional) title: “The Realistic Expression of KISHIDA Ryusei and the Formation of his Image as a ‘Poor Man’ artist: Focusing on His Recuperation Period in Komazawa Shin-machi.”