2007 Annual Meeting


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Transculturalism vs. Nationalism: Revitalizing Literati Painting in China and Japan, ca. 1880s-1930s

Organizer and Chair: Tamaki Maeda, Wellesley College 

Discussant: Jerome Silbergeld, Princeton University

Vital artistic interchanges between China and Japan took place in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, despite growing political tensions. What was the basis for their continued dialogue? How did art underscore or transcend competing national interests? To what extent did art reinforce or defy Japanese imperialism or the Sino-centric cultural hierarchy in East Asia? This panel focuses on literati painting—the art that both Chinese and Japanese intellectuals promoted as the core of East Asian aesthetics. The papers provide insights into the nationalization, regionalization, and globalization of literati painting, vis--vis China-Japan interactions. Rosina Buckland analyzes the “Chinese” elements in the bird-and-flower paintings of Taki Katei, who sprung from the milieu of Edo-period literati art. Presented as universal images of the natural world, birds and flowers also served as symbols of the Japanese state. Tamaki Maeda focuses on Tomioka Tessai, who spearheaded the promotion of literati painting in the Sino-Japanese art world. Two “untrammeled-class” painters, Muqi and Shitao, were the sources for Tessai’s painting that resonated with twentieth-century Chinese painters. Aida Yuen Wong turns to Hashimoto Kansetsu, a Sinophile from Kyoto who painted Chinese literary subjects. Kansetsu’s oeuvre reveals a strong background in Chinese classical learning as well as an appreciation for seal carving.  In the 1930s, Sino-Japanese artistic exchange went further to forecast the globalization of East Asian aesthetics, as Zaixin Hong demonstrates. Active in Shanghai and Tokyo respectively, Huang Binhong and Tanabe Hekido together envisaged the ramifications of literati painting for the world of Western art.

Nature as Nationalism: The Bird-and-Flower Imagery of Taki Katei

Rosina Buckland, New York University

Despite the dominance of Western models in Japanese finance, industry, and government during the 1870s and 1880s, ‘Chinese-style’ culture enjoyed renewed vitality in areas such as painting, tea practice, literary works, and poetry, and contacts flourished with Chinese scholars living in Tokyo. However, by the late 1880s deteriorating relations with China were complicating for the Japanese what had long been an idealized view of continental culture. Painters now selected elements from their training in Chinese styles and deployed them strategically in service of a new painting that could represent Japan both to itself and to the outside world. In my presentation I consider the meanings of one of the most popular painting genres of the mid-Meiji era, birds-and-flowers, focusing on its foremost exponent, Taki Katei (1830–1901). Belonging to the last generation to practice as itinerant literati artists, Katei transformed himself into a modern painter engaged in the system of domestic and international exhibitions, and employed by the imperial court. The Japan Art Association (Nihon Bijutsu Kyokai), of which Katei was a leading member, consciously focused on nature imagery as being unencumbered by concepts and ideas, and thus possessed of universal appeal. Yet, as Japan furthered its industrialization and undertook large-scale expansion of its military, these tranquil scenes of nature gained symbolic power. I explore how, by avoiding narrative or religious themes whose nationalist intentions were clear, the supposedly neutral imagery of bird-and-flower paintings masked what were in fact very similar aims.

 In the Manner of the Untrammeled (Yipin): Shitao Meets Muqi in Tessai’s Composition

Tamaki Maeda, Wellesley College

Muqi (13th century) and Shitao (1642-1707) have been named yipin painters by art historians who canonized their works as expressions of the artists’ untrammeled natures. The two artists, however, represent two distinctive—and sometimes opposing—views of Chinese painting. Muqi exemplifies the Southern Song painting preserved in the fifteenth century Ashikaga Shogunate Collection. Shitao, on the other hand, exemplifies the Ming and Qing painting treasured by Qing scholar-officials and imported to Japan around the fall of the dynasty (1911). In the early twentieth century the Japanese painter Tomioka Tessai (1836-1924) merged the styles of these two yipin painters. His painting thus points to a remarkable confluence of two canons of Chinese painting: one which had been present in Japan from the medieval period and the other newly imported from China in his time. Tessai was also named an yipin painter--most notably by the Sinologist Naito Konan (1866-1934)--and his pictorial ideas were deployed by Japanese and Chinese painters of later generations. This paper will consider works by Tessai as evidence of his convergence of the two canons of Chinese painting. Along with visual ideas of Shitao’s painting, celebrated by Qing scholar-officials, Tessai used painting techniques associated with Muqi, which had fallen out of favor with scholars in China. His work thereby not only spearheaded the promotion of literati painting in the Sino-Japanese cultural sphere, but also helped Chinese painters rediscover a past aesthetic kept alive in Japan.

Kangaku in Painting: Hashimoto Kansetsu's Chinese Connection

Aida-Yuen Wong, Brandeis University

From childhood Hashimoto Kansetsu (1883-1945) was exposed to kangaku (Chinese classical learning).  His paintings utilized elements of the Shijo, Yamato-e, Kano, and Nanga (literati) schools to translate Chinese narratives into visual form.  Stylistic pluralism was a typical neoclassical strategy of the Taisho and early Showa periods, but no Japanese contemporary developed a more extensive repertoire of kangaku subjects than Kansetsu.  His paintings won numerous awards at the national exhibitions, making him one of the foremost artists of Kyoto. Another distinguishing feature of Kansetsu's career was his promotion of Sino-Japanese artistic exchange.  In 1926, Wang Yiting, Liu Haisu, and Qian Shoutie from Shanghai joined the artists' group, Kaiisha, which Kansetsu organized with four other Japanese painters.  Their expressed goal was to study paintings by classical masters and exhibit works inspired by this collaborative learning.  The "new literati painting" or shin-nanga which Kansetsu’s art came to be called was partly a product of this exchange. A vital element in Kansetsu's new literati painting, though easily overlooked, is the inclusion of fine-quality seals.  His personal seals included more than fifty carved by Qian Shoutie.  This seal collection testifies to the two men’s friendship and mutual admiration.  Qian was a frequent guest at Kansetsu's Kyoto villa.  In the 1930s he was imprisoned by Japanese authorities on charges of espionage and later extradited.  Shin-nanga suffered as a result of the war, and studies of Kansetsu have been limited.  This paper examines one of the least understood masters in modern Japan. 

Discourse between Shanghai and Tokyo on the Literati Art Traditions in the Early 1930s

Zaixin Hong, University of Puget Sound

In his 1926 report of the Shanghai guhua (antique Chinese painting) market, Huang Binhong (1865-1955), a leading literati landscapist, observed that Japanese dealers were interested in acquiring artworks from both the Northern and Southern Schools.  Despite a decade-long craze for Chinese painting in Japan highlighted by the grand guhua exhibition held in Tokyo in 1928, and despite a series of exchange exhibitions of contemporary Sino-Japanese painters since 1918, the selling of Chinese calligraphy and painting in the Tokyo Art Club – the nucleus of the world market for guhua—plummeted after 1917.  Nevertheless, continuing earlier interchanges between scholarship and the art market, from 1930 onwards a short yet treasured friendship was established between Shanghai and Tokyo through the efforts of Huang Binhong and Tanabe Hekido (1864-1931), an entrepreneur, politician, poet, and literati painter. Their correspondence, and the Chinese-style poems and literati paintings which later appeared in the journal Xueshu Shijie (Scholarly World) in Shanghai, addressed the discourse on the literati art traditions in both countries and their ramifications in modern Western art movements.  The discourse also underscores the little explored yet important relationship between the circle of literati artists in Shanghai and their counterparts in Tokyo, and can be compared to the Lingnan (Cantonese) school of painting in Shanghai and its direct reference to nihonga (Japanese-style painting), with its influential development of representational realism in Asia from the late Meiji period onward.