Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties Center for Conservation Science
Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation
Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Still Life Paintings and “Hand” by KISHIDA Ryusei – the 8th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

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.

The Third Seminar on the Survey and Management of Conservation Environment: Chemical Substance Absorbent for Air Cleaning

Seminar in the meeting room

 A series of seminar on the survey and management of conservation environment is organized annually, targeting the curators in charge of conservation for materials in museums and researchers engaged in conservation of cultural properties. These seminars aim to share common understanding on the surveys, assessment methods and improvement of conservation environment, and materials and tools for safe storage. The first and second seminars were organized by the National Center for the Promotion of Cultural Properties (CPCP) and the third was held with a co-sponsorship of CPCP and the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN.)

 In the first seminar, titled the Survey and Assessment of Air Environment Using Kitagawa Detection Tubes, usage and appropriate assessment methods of Kitagawa detection tubes, which were widely used for quantitative analysis of chemicals in the air in the exhibition and storage rooms, were explained. In the second seminar, titled Neutral Papers as Materials Used for Document Conservation, the scientific character of paper, characteristics and standards of neutral paper, and appropriate usages of conservation containers made of neutral paper were explained with hands-on practice. Neutral paper is widely used as a material to create document conservation containers in storage and stack rooms.

 The theme of the third seminar was chemical substance absorbent. Recently, concerns about chemical substance emission from the building and interior materials and its impact on the documents, as well as methods to improve the situation have attracted people’s attention. However, we are still exploring the best possible ways to clean the air in exhibition and storage rooms. Therefore, we invite a company that develops chemical substance absorbent to explain methods of selecting appropriate chemical substance absorbent, as well as the adsorption phenomena, principle and structure of absorbent, and environmental factors related to adsorption efficiency.

 We conducted this seminar with eight participants in person and distributed it online for the prevention of the spread of COVID-19 infection. A total of 30 people participated in the seminar. Participants provided their opinions on the usefulness of the seminar because they could learn from the principle to the practice, stating, “I could well understand the types and mechanisms of gas adsorption,” and “as I understood the principle of gas adsorption and measurement methods, it would get easier to assume the solutions.”

 We plan to continue the seminars by setting themes that are necessary for daily practices, from the viewpoint of conservation science.

Performance Recording of Heike the Fourth, Resumed After Two Years

From the left: Mr. TANAKA Naoichi, Mr. KIKUO Yuji, Mr. HIYOSHI Shogo

 A Japanese traditional performing art Heike or Heike Biwa faces the crisis of not being inherited by the next generation because of the recent absence of sufficient successors. Given these circumstances, the department of intangible cultural heritage has been recording the performance since 2018, with the cooperation of the Heike Narrative Research Society, which was founded under the initiative of Prof. KOMODA Haruko, Musashino Academia Musicae, including its members comprising Mr. KIKUO Yuji, Mr. TANAKA Naoichi, and Mr. HIYOSHI Shogo. We could not make it happen last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but managed to resume recording the performance at the Performing Arts Studio of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), on February 4th, 2022 after a two-years gap.

 Sotoba Nagashi, a traditional piece transmitted in Nagoya, was recorded. This piece, which is regarding the priest, Taira no Yasuyori, who was exiled to the Kikaijima Island, narrates the story in which Taira no Yasuyori made a thousand Sotoba (Buddhist wooden objects), and wrote two waka, Japanese poems on two sotoba. After he threw them to the sea, one of them was washed up to the seashore in the Itsukushima Shrine. It was brought to Taira no Kiyomori through other hands. He was very touched by the poem. The highlight of the piece is the part where it is told how wonderful waka is, referring to Kakinomoto Hitomaro and Yamanobe no Akato, who were the poets of Man’yōshū, an ancient collection of waka This part requires to be narrated in high voice tone. This time, it was recorded by the rengin (group reciting) comprising Mr. KIKUO, Mr. TANAKA, and Mr. HIYOSHI.

 The Heike Narrative Research Society is characterized by not only learning the traditional pieces but also reconstructing lost pieces of Heike. We will continue recording the traditional and reconstructed pieces of “Heike” to create the archives.

Raw Materials Essential to Intangible Cultural Heritage –Starting the Survey on Common Reed (Phragmites Australis) in the Riverbed from Udono to Kanmaki in Osaka

Survey on slashing and burning common reed riverbeds in Kanmaki and Udono
A Reed(mouthpiece) of hichiriki

 Raw materials of reeds (mouthpieces) of hichiriki (a Japanese flute), is common read (Phragmites Australis; Genus:Phragmites, Family:Poaceae). Especially common reeds growing on the land near the rivers and the lakes are said to be suitable for hichiriki’s reeds. Udono and Kanmaki areas of the Yodo River riverbeds in Takatsuki City, Osaka Prefecture, are well known as a production area of the good quality common reeds grown in the land. For long time, Udono Association for Common Reed Riverbeds Preservation and Kanmaki Working Union have been working to slash common reads and burn the reed riverbeds there to preserve reed riverbeds and exterminate harmful weeds and insects during every February. However, due to the unsuitable weather condition and the COVID-19 pandemic, this work could not be carried out for two consecutive years. We were concerned about the common reeds growing environment. From September 2021, the information was spread that the common reeds in that area were almost extinct.

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been engaged in the surveys on conservation techniques to transmit traditional performing arts, and the tools and raw materials for these arts. The common reeds are mandatory as raw materials to support gagaku (a Japanese classical music, which are mainly played in courts and shrines.) Therefore, we documented and studied reed riverbeds burning held on Feb 13th, 2022, first time in two years.

 They plan to improve the environment for common reeds growing under the initiative of Udono Association for Common Reeds Riverbed Conservation and Kanmaki Working Union by stripping vines which coil around and blight reeds. The department continues to closely monitor the activities as an important attempt to secure the raw materials, which are mandatory for the conservation for cultural properties.

A Seminar “Archeology and International Contribution – Archaeology and Cultural Heritage in Israel”

Program of the seminar “Archeology and International Contribution – Archaeology and Cultural Heritage in Israel”

 An online seminar was held on February 20th, 2022, centering around the conservation, restoration, maintenance, and opening of archeological sites to the public in Israel. This seminar was the first in the series of annual seminars planned for the succeeding five years. We chose Israel for the first seminar as they have a wide variety of researchers in cultural heritage, and possess well organized cultural heritage protection system.

 For the seminar, we invited two researchers from Israel Nature and Parks Authority who designate and manage the historic sites; Dr. Zeev Margalit, Architect and Director of Conservation and Development, and Dr. Dror Ben-Yosef, North District Archaeologist. Dr. Margalit took a lecture on the various challenges related to archeological site management. Dr. Ben-Yosef, in his lecture, talked about their onsite projects and how to exhibit other archaeological remains on sites known in the historical documents.

 Following the two speakers, KANSHA Hiroo from TOBUNKEN, Dr. OKADA Mayumi, associate professor, the Center for Advanced Tourism Studies (CATS) of Hokkaido University, and Dr. HASEGAWA Shuichi, professor, College of Arts, Rikkyo University, conducted the lectures. KANSHA presented an overview of the Japanese archeological surveys in Israel since 1960, and. Dr. OKADA presented a discussion on how cultural heritage management has been developed in Israel through the years. Dr. HASEGAWA conducted a lecture on the challenges related to the conservation and utilization of the heritage sites through the case studies of the archeological sites in Israel where he has been engaged in its excavation.

 In the latter half of the seminar, a panel discussion with all lecturers was held, facilitated by Dr. HASEGAWA. We all recognized that Israel and Japan have common challenges, such as the issue of what should be kept and what not through conservation and management of archeological sites, and the dilemma that people in charge of the conservation and management face through the panel discussion.

 We would like to enhance our international cooperation projects more effectively by sharing the challenges with other countries through similar seminars targeting West Asian countries.

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