|■Tokyo National Research
Institute for Cultural Properties
||■Center for Conservation
|■Department of Art Research,
Archives and Information Systems
||■Japan Center for
International Cooperation in Conservation
|■Department of Intangible
The leaflet of the seminar
Lecture by EMURA Tomoko
Lecture by YOSHIDA Akiko
The Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems held the 56th Public Lecture: Look at Form, Read Form on November 8th, 2022. This series of public lectures is organized every autumn for the public, and research outcomes are presented. The event used to take place for two days with invited presenters outside TOBUNKEN. However, it has held for one day with two internal presenters and a limited audience (50 individuals) pre-selected by the rotary due to the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020. The venue was TOBUNKEN’s seminar room, and the meeting room was prepared for the internal audience as a satellite venue.
The lecture this year included two presentations: A Look of Amusement Pictures Featuring Amusements (Sooji Temple Folding Screen) Housed in the Tokugawa Art Museum by EMURA Tomoko, the director of the department; and The Still Life Paintings by KISHIDA Ryusei—Thematization of “Look,” by YOSHIDA Akiko, Researcher.
EMURA featured Amusements (Sooji Temple Folding Screen), known as a representative of early modern genre pictures, and introduced its detailed depiction using high-resolution images. She then described the characteristics of the depicted designs and architecture, as well as the detailed painting expressions, such as overpainting, associated with it. YOSHIDA examined the process of painting over the completed painting in terms of how it was made and what critiques it provoked, as well as the relationship between its characteristics of depiction and KISHIDA’s painting theory using Still Life (with Hand that has been erased) by KISHIDA Ryusei during the Taisho era based on novel images obtained through optical investigations.
We received a positive reaction from the audience: 80% of the feedback questionnaire responses were “satisfied” or “relatively satisfied.”
Investigation at TOBUNKEN
Investigation at the Fukushima Prefectural Museum of Art
KISHIDA Ryusei (1891-1929), a painter who worked mainly on oil paintings in the Taisho period, is renowned for his many masterpieces, including two Important Cultural Properties: Road Cut through a Hill (1915, the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo) and Portrait of Reiko (1921, Tokyo National Museum). His still life paintings are noted for his careful screen composition, and very detailed depiction even of the cracks of desks and spots on fruits. His paintings have influenced not only western-style painters but also Japanese-style painters and photographers.
However, among his paintings, Still Life (with the hand erased) (1918, private collection) has received controversial remarks. This work could not be presented at an exhibition because it was criticized for having a painted human hand, which was considered creepy. This criticism impacted KISHIDA’s characteristic works. However, this controversial hand was later mysteriously removed by someone. To address questions regarding why the hand was erased and what relation this painting has with his other still life paintings, we conducted an optical investigation of his four still life paintings in FY2022 with cooperation from various institutes and individuals in Japan. This investigation was conducted in preparation for YOSHIDA Akiko’s presentation titled Still Life Paintings by KISHIDA Ryusei ― Topicalize “Looking” at the 56th Public Lecture: “Look at Form, Read Form,” which is to be held on November 8, 2022.
This investigation was mainly conducted with reflection and transmittance near-infrared photography. It also used fluorescent and ultraviolet photography by SHIRONO Seiji, artificer of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems. X-ray images were taken for Still Life (with the hand erased) by INUZUKA Masahide, head of the Analytical Science Section of the Center for Conservation Science. As the result, we obtained a whole screen image of Still Life (with the hand erased) with the “hand” hidden in the painting. In addition, it showed us that other multiple paintings have traces of KISHIDA’s repainting with motifs relocated. We can say it is a “discovery” to bring new information regarding KISHIDA Ryusei’s painting process. I will present the findings in detail at the public lecture mentioned above.
Lecture speech by YOSHIDA Akiko (Evening in Brabant with a Woman Carrying Water by Rodolphe Wytsman on the screen)
An exhibition, Timely Connections: Hidden Western-Style Paintings in Tokyo National Museum was held as one of Tokyo National Museum’s 150th Anniversary projects from June 7th to July 18th, 2022 at the Heiseikan thematic exhibition room. This exhibition was planned by Mr. OKIMATSU Kenjiro, Supervisor, Collections Management of Tokyo National Museum and Supervisor, Loan Promotion of the National Center for the Promotion of Cultural Properties. SHIOYA Jun, director and YOSHIDA Akiko, a researcher of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems participated in the preparation studies.
Tokyo National Museum is well known for its collections of Japanese and Eastern ancient arts. Simultaneously, the museum has been collecting western-style paintings, including those by European and American painters, since the early days of the museum. This exhibition presented these western paintings in three sections: I. “Connections with the World” — artworks brought from abroad through world expositions and collection exchange projects; II. “Connections with Contemporary Art” — those collected to introduce the latest western fine arts and promote production in Japan; and III. “Connections with Social Conditions” — those collected for responding to social movements, such as natural disasters and wars.
While preparing for this exhibition, the works were investigated by us and photographed, and material and related works were surveyed. Then, we made several findings through these surveys. Portrait of Lorenz von Stein (Austria 1887), exhibited in the section III, features Lorenz von Stein, a German jurist who contributed to draft the Constitution of the Empire of Japan. We identified his son, Alwin von Stein as its painter. The information was given by related parties who responded to Mr. OKIMATSU’s surveys and calls for information, thus contributing to this identification. Furthermore, A Painter and His Wife (the Netherland 1636), a print art by Rembrandt van Rijn, is considered to be collected by Tokyo National Museum which introduced Western modern arts for a short period after the World War II. The state of its version was successfully narrowed down by external expert’s advice. More discoveries were made through material investigation and surveys on related materials. With these activities and findings, we again recognized the significance of Tokyo National Museum’s western-style painting collection.
As a part of this exhibition, monthly lectures titled Timely Connections: Hidden Western-Style Paintings in Tokyo National Museum were held on July 16th, 2022, wherein Mr. OKIMATSU, YOSHIDA, and SHIOYA (in speaking order)provided lectures in relay.
Mr. OKIMATSU spoke about the overview of the entire exhibition and introduced new findings from its survey stage. Following his lecture, sub themes were discussed. YOSHIDA gave a brief history of the Belgian painter couple, Rodolphe and Juliette Wytsman and spoke about their relationship with Japan, which started with the submission of their paintings to Hakubakai, including Evening in Brabant with a Woman Carrying Water, an oil painting by Rodolphe Wytsman. Then, SHIOYA told that the Viscount Kuroda memorial Art Promotion Fund Committee was founded in the memory of KURODA Seiki, a western-style painting pioneer in Japan, and endowed western-style paintings in the pre-war Showa period including Mother and Child (1930) by MATSUSHITA Haruo and Atelier (1933) by INOKUMA Gen’ichirō.
The seminar conducted in person
Cover of Works and Essays on Arts of Ryusei 1920 (owned by TOBUNKEN collection)
Still Life, with its poem, 1918 (not existence, shown in Works and Essays on Arts of Ryusei)
KISHIDA Ryusei (1891-1929), a painter who was active in the Taisho period, studied in the Aoibashi Yōga-kenkyūsho (research institute of Western-style paintings), which was founded by KURODA Seiki. KISHIDA then presented his paintings mainly in Sōdo-sha, an artwork association founded by him and his fellows. KISHIDA pursued his unique painting style by actively accepting elaborate paintings by old masters such as Albrecht Dürer and Jan van Eyck, and then paid attention to Chinese and Japanese traditional paintings. This was in contrast to other contemporary Japanese paintings, which were strongly influenced by modern French paintings. The momentum to reevaluate Kishida’s paintings is now boosted. For example, the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto newly housed the entire personal collection of KISHIDA Ryusei in 2021.
YOSHIDA Akiko of the department discussed Kishida’s unusual expression of a human hand on his still life paintings in her presentation titled the Design of “Hand” by KISHIDA Ryusei – Focusing on His Still Life- at the seminar held on February 24th, 2022. A motif of hand was painted on Still Life (with Hand that has been erased) (painted in 1918, private collection.) However, the hand was later overpainted onto the screen, which makes it invisible to the naked eye. In the other case, a hand holding an apple was painted with a poem on the Still Life, with its poem (painted in 1918, destroyed in fire) in the same period. However, this artwork was lost forever. These two paintings, which cannot be seen in the way they were viewed when they were painted, raised arguments and attracted public attention in magazines and newspapers regarding their submission to the fifth Nika Art Exhibition (the former failed.) In her paper Eliminated Hand: Still Life Paintings by KISHIDA Ryusei of 1918 (published in Bijutsushi 183 vol.67 no.1, 2017), the presenter discussed the relationship with his art theory which was being developed by KISHIDA in the same period when he had painted these still life paintings, and the relationship with his artwork in 1916, when he had started painting still life in the earnest. In this presentation, she discussed the background as to why the “hand,” as a characteristic part of KISHIDA’s portraits, attracted attention as an independent motif and suggested that the review on KISHIDA Ryusei by WATANABE Kichiji / Kihciharu*, who was an aesthetician and had accepted German Aesthetics in that period as a pioneer, had influenced him.
The seminar was conducted in person at TOBUNKEN’s meeting room with sufficient precautions against the spread of COVID-19 infection. We invited Mr. TANAKA Atsushi (Director, OKAWA MUSEUM OF ART) as a commentator. We also had participants from outside of TOBUNKEN, including Ms. KOBAYASHI Mioko (Cultural Design Section, Culture, Commerce and Industry Division, Toshima City), Mr. TANAKA Jun’ichiro (The Museum of the Imperial Collections Sannomaru Shozokan), and Ms. YAMANASHI Emiko (Director, Chiba City Museum of Art.) The commentator provided information that impacted the core part of presentation, and active discussion occurred in the Q&A session. Hints were also provided on further research on his still life paintings in which unsolved questions remained, including the basic issues in the screen revision of Still Life (with Hand that has been Erased). The seminar was extremely fruitful.
*Watanabe’s first name can be spelled out two ways, and it is uncertain as to which one is correct.
Investigation of coloring materials by X-ray fluorescence spectrometry
The Kuroda Memorial Hall houses and exhibits the paintings of KURODA Seiki and others. His oil paintings, the key collection, now count to 149, and belong to the Tokyo National Museum, of which the Kuroda Memorial Hall is currently a part of.
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) photographed KURODA’s entire collection of oil paintings housed at the Hall, with high-resolution color, infrared and fluorescence imaging, from October through December 2021, in collaboration with the staff of the Tokyo National Museum. Furthermore, using X-ray fluorescence technologies, we analyzed the coloring materials used for the paintings: “Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment”, “Reading”, “Maiko Girl” and “Lakeside”.
KURODA Seiki studied oil paintings in France at the end of the 19th century. He learned the academic style, and acquired the Impressionist vision, weighing the sketches from outside. Following his return to Japan, he became a part of the mainstream Japanese modern painting world. His style changed with his position and circumstances – while in France, soon after returning to Japan, and after creating his niche in the Japanese art world. It is significant to have photographed his oil paintings with the same modern methods and lighting, including high-resolution color, infrared or fluorescence images that had never been taken before. We will uncover the techniques he used to actually paint these works, by comprehensively evaluating the information of brush touch, as highlighted by the high-resolution color imaging; the existence of drawings beneath and the color overlap as exposed by infrared and fluorescence imaging; and the details of the coloring materials used, as analyzed by the x-ray fluorescence imaging. The images photographed will prove to be essential in the research to understand the heart of the oil paintings by KURODA Seiki, who was an artistic leader of modern oil art in Japan.
Some images of his oil paintings have been made public on the TOBUNKEN website (https://www.tobunken.go.jp/kuroda/english/works.html), as well as in the reports including “Kuroda Seiki, Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment, Artwork Archive for Art Studies, volume I” (2002) and “Kuroda Seiki Lakeside, Artwork Archive for Art Studies, volume V” (2008). We plan to publish the outcomes of the latest photographing and research on our website.