Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems-Letter to Kuroda Seiki from Yamamoto Hosui
The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) owns several letters written to painter Seiki KURODA(1866–1924) who later in life was closely involved in the establishment of the institute. These letters are valuable materials for elucidating KURODA’s network of personal contacts during his life. For the reprinting and annotation of the letters, the TNRICP sought the cooperation of researchersoutside of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems. As part of the research work, the department hosted a seminar on Dec. 8th, 2016, inviting Mr.Akifumi SHIINO of the Fukui Fine Arts Museum to give a talk on “The Reprinting and Annotation of the Letters of Hosui YAMAMOTO to Seiki KURODA.”
Hosui YAMAMOTO (1850–1906) was a leading Western-style painter of the early Meiji Period. During his time studying painting in France, he is known to have encouraged KURODA to become a painter instead of a lawyer. After returning to Japan, he established a painting academy, the Seikokan, which he later handed over to KURODA. He also joined the new artists’ society formed by KURODA, the Hakubakai, maintaining a strong friendship. The institute owns 14 letters written by YAMAMOTO to KURODA, documenting their friendship in Japan. Of these, nine were date-stamped in 1896, when they had both just returned from service as artists in the Sino-Japanese War. The letters dealt with their painting activities and YAMAMOTO’s thoughts on KURODA’s “Morning Toilette,” which sparked a controversy on nude painting when it was submitted for the 4th National Industrial Exhibition. One letter includes a self-drawn image of YAMAMOTO immediately after his return to Japan from China; many things he writes are amusing. These letters are noteworthy primary materials that shed light on YAMAMOTO’s disposition after his return to Japan, whereas he is primarily known for his lighthearted character in the social world of Paris’ artists and intelligentsia. SHIINO’s talk also touched on the positions of the two artists in the world of Western-style painting in Japan, both of whom were held in high esteem while being 16 years apart in age.