|■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
Database of KUME Keiichiro’s Diary, Accounts on January 4th, 1899
The Portrait of SANO Akira by KURODA Seiki Possessed by the Tokyo National Museum
Western-style painter KUME Keiichiro (1866 – 1934) is known as an artist who strove to revamp Japanese modern western-style painting along with his close colleague KURODA Seiki (1866 – 1924). At Kume Museum of Art in Meguro, Tokyo, which is designed to praise his achievements as a painter, Kume’s diary titled “KUME Keiichiro’s Diary” is kept and was already published (by Chuo Koron Bijutsu Shuppan in 1990). As part of a collaborative project between the museum and Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), we began publishing the content of the diary online in database format using WordPress Content Management System (CMS) via the following URL as of March 25:
The diary was written in part in French and the database contains the French text written until 1892 and its Japanese translation by visiting researcher SAITO Tatsuya. Further, it is linked with the database of KURODA Seiki’s diary, which had already been published online, and as for descriptions with the same dates, the two diaries can be cross-referenced. For instance, Kuroda and Kume celebrated the New Year in Numazu, Shizuoka, in 1899. In Kume’s diary on January 4th, he noted that “Kuroda portrayed Sano,” while Kuroda mentioned in his diary that “I portrayed Sano.” Sano is SANO Akira (1866 – 1955), a sculptor who enjoyed a close friendship with Kuroda and Kume.
The portrait of Sano painted by Kuroda is a collection that was housed in the Kuroda Memorial Hall (Tokyo National Museum) in 2019. It can safely be described as an interesting example in which Kuroda and Kume’s accounts in their respective diaries are linked with the existing piece of art.
For your information, also as a result of our collaborative study with Kume Museum of Art, we published an article, “Exchanges between KURODA Seiki and KUME Keiichiro Seen in Letters (I),” by SHIOYA Jun, ITO Fumiko (curator at Kume Museum of Art), TANAKA Jun (visiting researcher), and SAITO Tatsuya in The Journal of Art Studies Vol. 433. We compiled the letters exchanged between Kuroda and Kume as a comprehensive list to allow you to view its summary. It will be a real pleasure for us if it provides a means of looking at Japan’s modern western-style painting along with the database of Kume’s diary.
The front cover of the research report
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) owns a total of 2,565 auction catalogues published from the Meiji Era to the Showa Era, which is the largest collection among those owned by public organizations. We have digitized them in collaboration with Tokyo Art Club since 2015 (refer to the Research Report for April 2015 https://www.tobunken.go.jp/
materials/ekatudo/206112.html) and started publishing them as the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive on May 2019 (refer to the Research Report for April 2019 https://www.tobunken.go.jp/
materials/ekatudo/817176.html). Further, in order to publicize this digital archive widely, we organized a seminar titled “The Auction Catalogue Digital Archive: Exploring the Potential of Auction Catalogues in Art Historical Research” on February 25, 2020. In this workshop, four people who participated from and outside of TOBUNKEN made presentations and curators and researchers who participated from various regions nationwide held discussion and question and answer sessions, which received a strong response and good reviews (refer to the Research Report for February 2020 https://www.tobunken.go.jp/materials/ekatudo/823156.html).
Against this background, centered on what was discussed in the workshop, we published the results of our five-year efforts at digitizing the auction catalogues in the form of a research report by adding parts on the significance of the auction catalogues that have been offered for review over the years as one of TOBUNKEN’s important collections, and the background of digitization. This contains: “An Overview of the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive” by YASUNAGA Takuyo (senior researcher at TOBUNKEN) as a project overview; and “Research on the History of Sculpture and Auction Catalogues” by YAMAGUCHI Ryûsuke (senior researcher at Nara National Museum), “The Use and Development of Auction Catalogues in the Tôrei Hijikata: A Retrospective Exhibition Held at Tottori Prefectural Museum” by YAMASHITA Mayumi (curator at The Hosomi Museum), “How to ‘See’ and ‘Read’ Auction Catalogues: Decorative Arts as an Example of the Use of the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive by TSUKIMURA Kino (curator at Fukuyama Museum of Art), and “Various Issues Regarding Early Modern Paintings that Emerge from the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive” by YASUNAGA Takuyo as discussions; as well as “The Process of Making Auction Catalogues Available to the Public at the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties” by NAKAMURA Setsuko (former librarian at TOBUNKEN) and “The Function of the Systems Used in the Creation of the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive” By OYAMADA Tomohiro (researcher at TOBUNKEN) as reports.
We donated copies of the research report to major museums, art museums, libraries, and universities at the end of the last fiscal year. Let me encourage those who are interested to visit a library nearby to view the report.
The satellite venue
YAMANASHI Emiko, Deputy Director General at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) gave a lecture entitled “The project of compiling the Year Book of Japanese Art as a legacy of the Hakuba-Kai” on March 25th, 2021. Currently, the Year Book of Japanese Art (the Year Book ) that TOBUNKEN publishes compiles annual developments in the Japanese art world two years ago, which is made up of “annals,” “art exhibitions,” “bibliography of art literature,” and “the deceased.” We have published the Year Book since 1936, which was not disrupted by the difficult times during and after the war and has continued up until today. Its unique composition was invented by IWAMURA Tōru (1870 – 1917), an art critic who maintained close relations with KURODA Seiki and KUME Keiichiro. Regarding how it has developed and changed thereafter, she delivered a lecture from her viewpoint as a researcher of modern Japanese art history and based on a wealth of experience that she had accumulated. As the number of art exhibitions has risen and the scope of “art” has widened in recent years, there are various challenges. She concluded her lecture by emphasizing the importance of sharing common awareness of the issues to continue with its publication and the significance of a public institution like TOBUNKEN continuing to publish the Year Book. In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the lecture was conducted online while participants viewed her presentation from the seminar room at TOBUNKEN, which served as a satellite venue, their respective workplaces or homes. Further, the video of the lecture was published via TOBUNKEN’s YouTube channel for a limited period of time until April 30, 2021. Yamanashi resigned as Deputy Director General as of the end of March 2021 and assumed a role as a visiting researcher starting in April 2021 and continues to provide cooperation to our activities at TOBUNKEN.
Explanation of the point of attention in taking a picture of ishari
Hands-on practice of shooting spouted pottery
Hands-on practice of shooting shimacho
Documentation of cultural properties aims to obtain information needed to conduct research on cultural properties, and to protect or utilize them. In particular, photographs convey detailed information that words alone are unable to express fully, and by setting the appropriate shooting conditions, more information can be conveyed.
We organized a seminar on practical photographing for documentation of cultural properties with the title above, which was targeted at the staff of member museums of the Liaison Council of Museums in Miyagi Prefecture, at the Tohoku History Museum (Tagajo City, Miyagi Prefecture) on March 12th, 2021. Co-hosted by the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), the Tohoku History Museum, and the liaison council, the seminar was the liaison council’s second workshop during fiscal year 2020. During the seminar, measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19 were taken, such as requiring participants to wear masks and ensuring social distancing and ventilation.
Following a lecture in the morning, hands-on practice of taking pictures of a variety of objects in the collection of the Tohoku History Museum, such as spouted pottery in the Late Jomon Period, ishari, a traditional lure for catching octopuses, and shimacho (a swatch book of stripe-patterned kimono fabrics), was conducted under the guidance of SHIRONO Seiji, an artificer at TOBUNKEN. All participants in the hands-on practice were requested to bring a camera with them and other equipment, such as lights and reflector boards, was provided by the museum. In the practice, we emphasized the importance of handling light. All the techniques were applicable using an existing or inexpensive device; one example was eliminating deep shadows that inhibit observation by illuminating the target object by projecting the light on a reflector board, which was hand-made by the staff at the museum. Participants worked on the practice with keen interest and many of them commented that they hoped to share what they learned with their colleagues or to use the techniques acquired in their work.
Let us take this opportunity to express our heartfelt thanks to everyone at the co-host organizations and all the participants that provided us with many useful suggestions. We hope to continue to organize seminars by taking advantage of this experience.
Production of Uda paper (video)
Production of a paper for repair and conservation (video)
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has carried out the Cooperative Program for the Conservation of Japanese Art Objects Overseas since 1990. To date, it has conserved 385 pieces of paintings and crafts owned by art museums in many parts of the world, including Europe, North America, and Australia. According to the initial plan, the conserved works of art in this program were supposed to return home in fiscal 2020 and an exhibition was due to be organized, wherein restoration techniques, materials, and tools would also have been presented; we had accordingly made preparations. In order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus infectious disease (COVID-19), however, we decided to postpone the exhibition.
Instead, we have recently launched a special website as something we can do even under constraints on the moves of people and goods. On this website, we introduce works of Japanese arts and crafts that we planned to exhibit, museums that own them in Europe and the U.S., and a list of works that have been conserved in searchable database format. As for those of which reports have already been published, you can read the text online as well. Further, there are a wide variety of traditional materials necessary to restore cultural properties. Moreover, a video is posted to explain, among others, Uda paper, which is used for the final and the backmost lining of a hanging scroll and a paper to be used to repair or restore the honshi (the paper on which a painting or calligraphy is drawn). These are designated as the national selected preservation technique for cultural properties. This video allows you to understand that various kinds of wisdom and ingenuity are brought together to hand down traditional techniques from generation to generation and conserve cultural properties amid Japanese traditional culture and natural environment. Let us take this opportunity to encourage you to visit the site. For your information, the preparations for the exhibition and production of the website were carried out as part of the Japan Cultural Expo.
A scene from the seminar
On February 25th, 2021, the 8th Seminar of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems was held, where MAIZAWA Rei and YASUNAGA Takuyo of the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems each gave their study reports on a Rakan-zu (a painting of Arhat, an enlightened Buddhist high priest) owned by Komyoji Temple (Minato-ku, Tokyo).
The Rakan-zu was discovered in a survey conducted last year. An article about the painting in “Kokka” No. 74, published in 1895, revealed that it was formerly owned by an art appraiser, KATANO Shiro (1867–-1909).
MAIZAWA introduced the painting with high-definition images and infrared photographs taken by SHIRONO Seiji of the same department, under the title “Rakan-zu, a former collection of KATANO Shiro-Consideration of its design and expressions.” Regarding the design, MAIZAWA reported that it depicts a Rakan and his followers worshipping the image of Tenbu (Deva) in the center, as well as Karyobinga (Kalavinka, an imaginary creature in Buddhism with a human head and a bird’s torso) and Gumyocho (Jivajiva, two-headed bird) that both symbolize the Pure Land of Amida Buddha (Paradise) at the top of the painting. MAIZAWA pointed out that the expressions are thought to have been created in mainland China and that the stylistic examination of the painting suggests the possibility that it was created during the Yuan Dynasty.
YASUNAGA gave a detailed report on the achievements of the former owner, KATANO Shiro and his father, KATANO Yuhei, and the people who interacted with them, under the title “Modern understanding of the Rakan-zu formerly owned by KATANO Shiro.” KATANO Shiro was born in the Kishu clan’s residence in Aoyana, Edo. He was deeply involved in the earliest days of the administration of cultural properties in Japan, through working in the art department of the Imperial Museum. He was also enthusiastic about collecting antique works. The sales list and comparison with other materials revealed that the Rakan-zu was sold after the death of his father, and then was purchased by Marquis INOUE Kaoru. Furthermore, YASUNAGA pointed out that the Rakan-zu was handed down as a work of KOSE no Oumi, a painter in the Heian period, based on its composition. YASUNAGA also added some consideration on the aspect of the modern understanding of the Rakan-zu, inherited from the early modern period.
The seminar was also held online, and Ms. UMEZAWA Megumi (Kanagawa Prefectural Kanazawa-Bunko Museum), Dr. TSUKAMOTO Maromitsu (University of Tokyo), and Dr. NISHITANI Isao (Sennyuji Temple) were invited as commentators. They gave valuable comments from their respective professional perspectives, and actively exchanged opinions during the question and answer session. Although there are still some problems related to the preservation state, the place of creation, and the age of the work, the seminar was very fruitful because, in addition to the examination of the design and expressions, various reports about how it came to Japan as well as the modern understanding of Rakan-zu were also given.
UENO Naoteru (left) and KO Yu-seop (early 1930s)
Complete Works of KO Yu-seop 3 (Discussion on the aesthetics of Korean art history) (Seoul, Institute of Eastern Culture, 1993) quote from the illustrations in the volume of illustrations
Scene from the seminar
UENO Naoteru (1882-1973) successively held important posts such as the Director of Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts and the President of Tokyo University of the Arts. He made huge contributions to the art world in a variety of ways such as teaching at universities, running museums such as art museums and protecting cultural assets, in addition to his research activities as an aesthetic and art historian. After the death of his second daughter UENO Aki (1922-2014), who was a researcher emeritus of the Institute, the materials related to Naoteru were donated to Tokyo University of the Arts, and they are currently managed by the Geidai Archives Center of Modern Art of the university.
At the seminar of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information System held on January 28th, Ms. ONISHI Junko (part-time lecturer at the Faculty of Cross-Cultural and Japanese Studies of Kanagawa University) and Mr. TASHIRO Yuichiro (curator at The Gotoh Museum), who have organized and researched the materials related to UENO Naoteru, each gave a presentation. Until the last fiscal year, Ms. ONISH worked in the Educational Materials Office, the predecessor organization of the abovementioned center, and her presentation titled “About the materials related to UENO Naoteru: A focus on the relationship with Japanese art history” provided an overview of the materials and presented the broad nature of Naoteru’s personal network as revealed through these materials. Also, Mr. TASHIRO’s presentation titled “Handwritten scripts of KO Yu-seop found in the materials related to UENO Naoteru” introduced the letters and handwritten scripts of KO Yu-seop (1905-1944), who is currently called the father of art history research in South Korea. UENO Naoteru was a professor at Keijo Imperial University from the last year of the Taisho era to the first year of Showa era, and KO Yu-seop studied under UENO while studying at the university. The materials introduced showed the exchanges between the two men and the early period of archaeology and art history research in South Korea. In particular, the presentation by Mr. TASHIRO indicated that the materials related to UENO Naoteru were important for tracking the development process of stone monument research into which KO Yu-seop put great effort.
Because a state of emergency was declared in response to the spread of COVID-19, the current seminar was held for the first time both in person and online. Researchers living in remote locations, including South Korea, were able to participate in the seminar, and the merits of holding a seminar online were realized.
Search screen of the auction artworks database
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been working jointly with Tokyo Art Club to create a digital copies of the auction catalogue (art catalogue) (visit https://www.tobunken.go.jp/materials/ekatudo/206112.html to see the monthly report for April 2015). The result was initially made available from May 2019 only at the Library as Auction Catalogue Digital Archive (visit https://www.tobunken.go.jp/materials/ekatudo/817176.html
to see the monthly report for April 2019). Starting from January 15th, 2021, part of the text data of the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive is now available on the website within the Artworks on Japanese Auction Catalogues page on TOBUNKEN Research Collections (https://www.tobunken.go.jp/archives/information-search/auction-artworks/?lang=en).
The Artworks on Japanese Auction Catalogues makes public the text data of about 337,000 items listed in 2,328 catalogues issued prior to the end of World War II out of a total of 2,565 catalogues owned by TOBUNKEN. It is basically a database of text data from the artwork with pictures. The images of the items are not available, but searches can be done on the abundant text data included in the auction catalogue and are expected to be used for a variety of purposes.
The TOBUNKEN Library was normally open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but from the standpoint of preventing the spread of COVID-19, the Library schedule was changed to Wednesdays and Fridays only for visitors with advance reservations from June 10th, 2020. Furthermore, following the state of emergency declaration on January 7th, 2021, the Library is now open only on Fridays since January 15th. Under these circumstances, the number of people who can use the Library is limited, resulting in increased needs for open access to the data. Going forward, we ask you to use both the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive for viewing images and Artworks on Japanese Auction Catalogues for text data accessible from all over the world in accordance with the purposes.
Lecture on digital image formats by Dr. Imaizumi
The documentation of cultural properties is indispensable for acquiring information about cultural properties such as their materials, forms, and colors, and for utilizing the collected information for research activities and preservation/restoration planning. The Cultural Properties Information Section of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems is responsible for communicating information about database compilation necessary for cultural property photographing in the course of documentation as well as data management/utilization. As part of the communication strategy, we held the seminar named in the title above in a seminar room at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties on December 23rd, 2020 (COVID-19 infection control measures were taken).
We are scheduled to hold three sessions in total in the series on “Digital Image Compression from the Basics of Images to Moving Images,” and the program designed for participants to learn the basics about image compression was offered at the first session. As the first speaker, Dr. IMAIZUMI Shoko, Associate Professor of Graduate School of Engineering, Chiba University explained about the characteristics of digital images such as differences from analog images, file properties, and the amount of information that changes depending on the resolution. Her lecture was followed by a talk by Mr. SHIRONO Seiji, an artificer of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems which mainly discussed how to control light and color when taking a digital photo such as the spectral feature that varies depending on the light source, and the light sources and their appropriate placement for photographing cultural properties.
Currently, compressed image formats such as JPEG and MPEG-4 are commonly used around the world. However, when planning to photograph cultural properties or saving images in files, one may wonder which information will be lost due to image compression, or if everything will really be okay as long as images are saved in TIFF or RAW formats.
Through the seminars in this series, we will continue to communicate the information that will be useful for you to document and preserve cultural properties using imaging technologies and disseminate information about them.
Scene of the seminar
On December 21st, 2020, YASHIRO Kyoko, an associate fellow of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems presented her research findings under the title: “Report and Consideration on the Preservation of Art Works Including Outdoor Sculptures That Are Not Recognized as ‘Cultural Properties’ – Aiming to Hold a Symposium”
Outdoor sculptures can be easily found in public spaces across Japan. Each of them is an important and irreplaceable asset for the community that owns it. However, many of these outdoor sculptures are in a state of neglect due to lack of maintenance, and to make matters worse, some have been removed for good for safety reasons in recent years. Generally speaking, outdoor sculptures are not recognized as “cultural properties.” Therefore, there is no appropriate preservation system in place for them.
With an aim to solve such problems, the speaker talked about some actual cases and raised issues about the preservation of outdoor sculptures to discuss with participants at this seminar. Also, Dr. TANAKA Shuji, Professor of Oita University, and Mr. SHINOHARA Satoshi, Associate Professor of Tokai University, both of whom have been involved in the maintenance of outdoor sculptures in their communities for many years participated in the seminar as guest speakers this time and talked about the challenges faced by those engaged in preservation work.
The issues regarding the preservation of outdoor sculptures are entangled with other issues in a wide range of fields such as public administration, education, and history. Therefore, it is not easy to come up with a solution. We are currently discussing the possibility to hold a symposium going forward for the purpose of sharing information and exploring possible solutions for this matter.
Presentation through the online conference system
Screenshot of a slide used for the presentation “Potential of further development: GRP Digital Content of Japanese Art”
At the 13th JADS fall seminar held on November 28th, 2020, we made a presentation titled “The Open Access Project of the Oda Kazuma Collection with a Focus on Illustrated Books by Katsushika Hokusai: Disseminate Bibliographic Information Globally in Collaboration with Getty Research Institute: Standardization of Bibliographic Information and Preservation of Material”. This presentation was created by KIKKAWA Hideki; TAMURA Ayako; ABE Tomoe; EMURA Tomoko from Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems; as well as YAMANASHI Emiko, Deputy Director General. On the day of the seminar, five members from Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties participated in the event through the online conference system. KIKKAWA Hideki and TAMURA Ayako, two of the five members, explained the preservation of material for the standardization and digitalization of bibliographic information, which were conducted during the project. They also suggested that the open access project has a lot of potential of further development. As part of the project, we developed an information channel to provide digitalized Japanese art material content to the Getty Research Portal (GRP: https://portal.getty.edu/). At the presentation, they mentioned that by making the channel available for all organizations concerned and by accumulating digitalized content related to Japanese art in the GRP, the global presence of Japanese art could be enhanced. Many specialists who handle museum library collections are members of the JADS. They provided us valuable feedback on our presentation, saying that it demonstrated a good example for handling archival material by focusing on the method of preserving the material and standardizing bibliographic information in a concrete manner.
As travel is restricted to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we are fully aware that the development and improvement of the online research environment is an urgent issue to address. We will disseminate information about Japanese art globally and improve the research environment to provide archival materials which would be beneficial for a wide range of research on cultural properties, while strengthening our partnership with other organizations.
Overview of the presentation is available on the URL below:（Proceedings of the 13th JADS fall seminar: http://www.jads.org/news/2020/jads_autumn2020.pdf#page=9）
At the 5 seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems on November 24, 2020, Dr. TAKEDA Eri, a part-time lecturer from the Toyo Institute of Art and Design delivered a presentation titled “Transitions in Western-Style Paintings from the Momoyama Period to the Final Years of the Edo Period (“Bakumatsu”) – Technical Transitions in Japanese Oil Paintings and the Validation of Art Historical Research and Appraisals in Japan.”
Dr. TAKEDA has been engaged in historical research on and the restoration of Japanese oil paintings for many years. She summarized the traditional techniques used for Japanese oil paintings based on research and reproductive experiments on pieces of artwork on her own. The presentation aimed to clarify how Japanese oil paintings fit in with Japanese art history. As the examples, she focused on the oil paintings of the mid-Edo period that have been found in recent years.
Japanese oil paintings, also known as Yofuga (Western-style paintings), were not recognized until research on Western art began during the early years of the Meiji period. Therefore, the art appraisals that were performed on pre-Meiji Western-style paintings are far from being appropriate in some sense. Considering this historical background, Dr. TAKEDA classified the history of Japanese oil painting into the following three categories: paintings made using the lacquer technique in the Asuka period, the early Western-style paintings in the Momoyama period, and the Western-style paintings influenced by the Netherlands in the Bakumatsu period. She said that the recently discovered mid-Edo period pictures painted with dried oil on the lacquered walls of the Yomeimon Gate of the Nikko Toshogu Shrine suggests a link between the early Western-style paintings in the Momoyama period and their counterparts in Bakumatsu. She pointed out that the painting is likely to be the work of an artist belonging to the Franciscans, which indicates passing down of painting techniques from Momoyama to Bakumatsu.
Professor Emeritus SAKAMOTO Mitsuru, an art historian who has been dedicatedly conducting research mainly on early Western-style painting, and Mr. SATO Noritake from the Association for the Preservation of the Nikko World Heritage Site Shrines and Temples, who has been leading the restoration project of the lacquered decorations of Edo period temples and shrines in Nikko, were invited to the seminar as commentators. Additionally, vigorous discussions were held among the participants who expressed different opinions regarding the oil-painted walls of the Yomeimon Gate and how they should be appraised in the context of Japanese oil painting history.
Screenshot of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties’ “Publications” Repository
The Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems publishes investigation/research studies in the journal Bijutsu Kenkyu on a regular basis. This journal was first published in 1932, and its latest issue is No. 431. From November 2020 onwards, the index of Bijutsu Kenkyu (PDF ver.) has been made available on the website of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (https://www.tobunken.go.jp/~joho/index.html) and its institutional repository “Publications” (http://id.nii.ac.jp/1440/00008980/).
The index was created as the sequel of the former index of Bijutsu Kenkyu (for No. 1 to 230) published in 1965. The new index covers more than 2,400 pieces of literature such as editorials and explanations of charts/diagrams. The new index is available both in Japanese and English, and equipped with in-document search functions that can be used for literature search.
The index will be updated every time a new issue of The Bijutsu Kenkyu journal is released.
Online Annual Meeting
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been carrying out our joint research project with Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures in the United Kingdom since 2013. The Sainsbury Institute, one of the research centers for Japanese arts and cultures in Europe, collects information on Japanese art-related publications written in non-Japanese languages and Japanese art exhibitions held outside of Japan. They provide this information to the Tobunken Research Collections (https://www.tobunken.go.jp/archives/). On the Tobunken Research Collections database, you can access information about Japanese art studies and research trends in and outside of Japan.
Until 2019, our staff used to visit the Sainsbury Institute in Norwich, England, once every year to discuss the database and deliver some lectures. However, our annual visit had to be canceled this year due to COVID-19. Instead, it was conducted online on November 26, 2020. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a long-lasting global impact, the open-access database and publications, accessible anytime and anywhere, have played an important role and are more indispensable for research than ever before. We discussed initiatives to ensure the services would be available for a wider range of users. The discussion started at 5:00 p.m. in Tokyo and 8:00 a.m. in the U.K., with a 9-hour time difference between both venues. However, as we had a face-to-face discussion and shared as much information as possible, it was a meaningful interaction which will help sustain our joint project into the future. We are going to continue the joint projects with the Sainsbury Institute for the upcoming medium-term plan covering FY 2021–2025.
A scene from the open lecture
Every autumn, the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems invites a wide range of audiences to the “Open Lecture” where researchers give lectures on the results of their research. A lecture titled “Road from Shape, Way to Shape” was held on October 30th, 2020. It is the fifth year for us to hold the lecture under the title. In previous years, lectures were held over two days with outside lecturers. However, in this year, we shortened the period to one day and reduced lecturers to two, selected from our institute, as prevention measures against COVID-19. The number of audience was also limited to 30, chosen by raffle. In the venue, temperature check was conducted and the speakers and audiences were asked to wear a mask and sanitize the hands.
In the first session, Mr. SHIOYA Jun, Director of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems and Head of the Modern/Contemporary Art Section delivered a lecture, titled “Neoclassicism in Modern Japanese Painting: Focusing on the Works of KOBAYASHI Kokei.” Mr. SHIOYA introduced the emergence of sophisticated and quiet styles in Japanese paintings represented by KOBAYASHI Kokei in the pre-war period of the Showa era. He also showed many slides and materials, explaining that those styles were influenced by older paintings from either Japan or China.
In the second session, Ms. FUTAGAMI Yoko, Head of the Cultural Properties Information Section made a presentation titled “Japanese Lacquer Products Exported to Thailand: Focusing on the Lacquer Doors of Wat Rajpradit, a first-grade royal Buddhist temple”. Wat Rajpradit was built in Bangkok in 1864 by order of King Rama IV. Ms. FUTAGAMI reported that Japan-made door panels decorated with lacquer paintings are used in the temple. She also explained the findings of the optical survey conducted on the doors and other lacquer products imported from Japan.
The results of the questionnaire survey of the audience shows that more than 90% of the participants of the lecture were “satisfied” or “generally satisfied” with the lecture.
Lecture at Heiwa Shimin Koen Noh（能）Theater, Oita City
Bungo Province (the south-central region of Oita Prefecture) was ruled by OTOMO Sorin, a famous Christian feudal lord during the Azuchi-Momoyama period. It is a land with a history of missionary work by Francis Xavier and many other European missionaries. An exhibition, “BVNGO NAMBAN: Namban Culture Lord Ōtomo Sōrin Cherished,” was held at the Oita Prefectural Center for Archaeological Research from October 10th to December 13th, 2020. It introduced the relationship between the province and Namban culture and/or Christianity, as well as the results of scientific analysis of Namban cultural artifacts, which has been making great progress in recent years.
The exhibition consisted mainly of the artifacts of the Namban culture, including ceramics excavated from the Bungo-Funai archaeological site, a stronghold ruin of the OTOMO clan, as well as related works preserved in different areas in Japan, including the Namban lacquer and paintings that Tsukumi City has collected over the years. Mr. KOBAYASHI Koji, Head of the Trans-Disciplinary Research Section, Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems, spoke at the opening commemorative lecture held on the first day of the exhibition at the request of the organizer. His lecture, titled “Catholic Missionary Activity and Namban Lacquer -Consideration by Scientific Analysis, Comparison with Medal Research- ,” focused on the latest research findings on Christian artifacts and the Namban lacquer, which correlated with the exhibition.
Although the venue was set up with a large seating space in order to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, about 200 people attended the lecture, showing the deep interest of the local residents in Namban culture and the history of Christian missionary work.
A scene from the seminar
The Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems is now actively moving forward with digitalization and open access of the archives.
The art magazine, “Mizue,” which was first published in 1905, became available on the web in 2012 ahead of any other archived materials. The digital archive was developed jointly by Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) and the National Institute of Informatics. Pages from the first issue published in the Meiji era to the 90th issue are now available on the web at http://mizue.bookarchive.jp/
At the seminar held on October 8th, 2020, Dr. MARUKAWA Yuzo (an Associate Professor at the National Museum of Ethnology and a visiting researcher in the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems at TNRICP), one of the development members, lectured on the topic of “Dissemination and Utilization of Related Materials in the Study of Modern Art.” Although the site already has an index of articles by the author, Dr. MARUKAWA is continuously enhancing the index by further expanding the search function. He pointed out that an enhanced index would allow for both specialization and universalization as well as the sharing of information across professional boundaries. Using the paintings and writings in “Mizue” as examples that provide information on various regions in Japan and abroad, he presented its value and attractiveness as a collection of fieldnotes that have been unrecognized by art history specialists. He also made an impressive comment that dissemination and utilization of such knowledge with infinite potential has something timeless as well as in common with the “Technology of Intellectual Production” advocated by the ethnologist, UMESAO Tadao. The Thematic Exhibition UMESAO Tadao’s 100th Anniversary: The Front-runner of Intellectual Production, of which Dr. MARUKAWA was in charge, was held (September 3rd–December 1st, 2020) at the National Museum of Ethnology, which coincided with the seminar.
Exhibit in Japanese Gallery (Honkan) Room 14 of the Tokyo National Museum
The Exhibition’s Dedicated Website
An exhibition regarding research notebooks of Imaizumi Yusaku (1850–1931), Hirako Takurei (1877–1911), and Tanaka Ichimatsu (1895–1983) owned by Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, as well as research notebooks of Doi Tsugiyoshi (1906–1991) owned by the Kyoto Institute of Technology, and others was held at the Tokyo National Museum from July 14th to August 23rd, 2020. The research notebooks of Tanaka Ichimatsu and Doi Tsugiyoshi were showcased at the exhibition “Making notes of Japanese Art History―The research notes of Aimi Kouu, Tanaka Ichimatsu, and Doi Tsugiyoshi” held in 2018 (organized by the Kosetsu Memorial Museum, Jissen Women’s University and the Museum and Archives of Kyoto Institute of Technology). However this time, their notebooks were exhibited together with two artworks owned by the Tokyo National Museum. In the past, when it was not easy to take photos, the principal method of research was to sketch artworks by hand. It is possible to go through the whole process of the study, from the way the researcher worked with each subject to how they recorded and evaluated them, by studying these research notebooks. Reservations were required for the exhibition with the purpose of preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, as a special exhibition “KIMONO: Fashioning Identities” was held at the same time, many people visited and enjoyed the exhibition. A special website was also launched for the exhibition (https://www.tobunken.go.jp/exhibition/202007/).
This website continues to be accessible. Please visit the site to view the pages of research notebooks that were not presented at the exhibition as well as transcriptions of the research notebooks.
A scene from the seminar
A page of “Portrait of a Man” in Duveen’s collection in Sandro Botticelli by YASHIRO
At the 3rd seminar organized by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems held on August 25th, YAMANASHI Emiko delivered a presentation titled “Correspondence between Joseph Duveen and YASHIRO Yukio archived in the Getty Research Institute”.
YASHIRO Yukio (1890-1975) played an important role in the establishment of the Institute of Art Research, which is now Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, studied in Europe from 1921 to 1925, and published a book titled Sandro Botticelli (Medici Society, 1925) in English as a result of his study under Bernard Berenson (1865-1959). Berenson was known as a masterful scholar of Renaissance paintings living in the Villa I’Tatti with a large garden near Florence, Italy. It is said that Berenson’s financial success had been based on a contract with Joseph Duveen (British nationality, 1869-1939). Duveen had galleries in New York, Paris and London and helped American millionaires such as Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919) and John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) collect classical European paintings. He also founded the Duveen Wing in the Tate Gallery in the U.K.
Yamanashi translated and analyzed the correspondence between Duveen and YASHIRO and found that YASHIRO sent letters to Duveen as a pupil of Berenson before the publication of his book on Botticelli asking for research of paintings in Duveen’s collection after whichYASHIRO sent his opinion on each work. Some letters reveal that Duveen had been interested in Japan in the 1920’s as a market for classical European paintings and expected YASHIRO to mediate. This seminar gave new aspects to the study of YASHIRO as an art historian as well as the history of European painting collections in Japan.
Mr. Shirono showing how to hold a camera properly
Study and documentation of cultural properties are means to develop a deeper understanding of them. Dissemination of the documented information provides many people with opportunities to become familiar with such properties. It also provides a basis for restoration if any cultural property were to be damaged. Therefore, documentation is necessary in terms of these properties’ preservation and utilization. On the subject of photography, which is a means to document cultural properties, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties held the seminar, referred to in the title, at the Uehara Museum of Art in Shimoda City, Shizuoka Prefecture, on August 24th, 2020. The seminar was organized with the support of the Shizuoka Prefectural Museum Association as well as in collaboration with the Museum. Eleven people, including staff of museums and art galleries, and local government officials in charge of cultural properties in Shizuoka Prefecture, participated in the seminar. For the seminar, the Uehara Museum of Art took proper measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which included keeping distances between seats, ventilation of the lecture rooms, and temperature checks of the participants.
The seminar comprised a morning and an afternoon session. In the morning session, Mr. Tajima Sei, chief curator of the Uehara Museum of Art, shared his photography experience during his research on temples, followed by an open discussion on issues regarding photographing in the participants’ daily activities. Mr. Shirono Seiji, an artificer of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, answered participants’ questions. He also explained, using examples, the importance of photographing focused on the significance of the subject which should be recorded.
In the afternoon, participants took photos of three artworks owned by the Uehara Museum of Art, using their own cameras. Mr. Shirono explained photographing methods and techniques, including the best lighting to draw out the character of the work, as well as how to properly record colors by manually setting the camera’s white balance. He also showed participants how to operate the photographing equipment. The afternoon session provided hands-on practice as curators of the Uehara Museum of Art, including Mr. Tajima, also gave an exposition of the research techniques of the work.
The seminar was well received as participants said it was fruitful and productive. It was meaningful for us as well, as it provided us with an opportunity to hear about issues on photography directly from the participants. We would like to show our deepest appreciation to the Uehara Museum of Art and its staff for their great support in planning and organizing the event. We will continue to improve our hands-on seminars, building upon this valuable experience.