Reasearch Outline

     In the midst of rapid globalization from the middle of the 19th century to the early 20th century, artists both in the East and the West were in the stream of cosmopolitanism, and creating innovative expressions which meant a challenge in painting production. The main theme of my research is cross-cultural exchange between the West and Japan in this period.

     In the first major publication, Japonisme in Britain – Whistler, Menpes, Henry, Hornel and nineteenth-century Japan (RoutledgeCurzon, London & New York, 2003), I explored Japanese influences on British art focusing on four artists working in Britain: the American J. McN. Whistler (1834-1903), the Australian M. Menpes (1855-1938), and two artists from the group known as the Glasgow Boys, G. Henry (1858-1934) and E. A. Hornel (1864-1933) and examined their experiment of pictorial space and the use of certain Japanese objects for the aesthetic value and exotic appeal.

     Since then, I have developed my research into cultural and artistic exchangesbetween Japan, the UK, and the US, centering around Whistler who was the earliest and most important figures of Japonisme. Whistler is an aesthete who asserted ‘art for art’s sake’ and ‘the beauty for beauty’. Japanese art was one of the important sources of inspiration for the formation of his original style obtained by the riverscapes with musical titles such as ‘Nocturne’. Insisting independence and superiority of art from nature, he preached universality of beauty and promoted the harmonization of the beauty of eastern and western art, both of which find their origin in ancient Greece. The 19th century was the era that both Japanese and Western artists took another look at their tradition and searched for new forms of expression. Whistler’s idea, ‘universality of beauty’, spread widely to Japan and the US with his works inspired by Japanese art through his patrons, artists and critics. It is noteworthy that Whistler’s receipt and influence in Japan has spread to various fields such as the world of letters by being introduced like this widely. Articles on Whistler had been published not only in art journals such as Bijyutu Shinpou or Hosun but also in literary magazines such as Myojyo, Waseda Bungaku, and Geibun. As a result, Whistler’s paintings were received in the work of poets and novelists such as Kinoshita Mokutaro, Kitahara Hakushu, Kanbara Ariake, and Haruo Sato.

     I have developed my research exploring networks around Whistler: Charles Lang Freer, Ernest Fenollosa and Kentaro Kaneko. Freer was Whistler’s patron who was recommended to collect the art of Asia by the artist and established tremendous quality and number of art works throughout his life. Fenollosa who was an honorary foreign employee also became a collector of Japanese art. Fenollosa sold some parts of his Japanese collection to Freer. Kaneko, who met Whistler in London, was a friend of Freer and Fenollosa. These important figures in the history of the modern era played a role as patron, foreign governmental employee, and bearcat in the context of globalization and spread the idea of universal beauty.

     As a result of Westernization policy during the Meiji era, Japanese artists assimilated Western criteria which led to the creation of a new Japanese painting style called Nihonga. Fenollosa was much involved in the birth of Nihonga. The involvement of honorary foreign employees in the birth of Nihonga, suggest that it was deeply related to the acceptance of Western values of painting. The birth of Nihonga as a national style was also strongly promoted by Okakura Tenshin who was a student of Fenollosa and later became a bureaucrat of the Ministry of Education. His students in the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (Current Tokyo University of Arts), Yokoyama Taikan and Hishida Shunso adopted western techniques as they searched for new expressions in Japanese traditional painting following the advice of Okakura. The style they have created was criticized as mōrōtai, a hazy style in Japan. However, as Taikan recalled in his later years, these works were nevertheless received favorably and sold well at their exhibitions in the United States in 1904 and 1905. And similarities between mōrōtai and Whistler’s Japanese inspired tonal paintings was pointed out by critics at that time: both styles were established as a result of globalization of art.

     The result of research on Whistler was presented to the public curating Whistler Retrospective (The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto & Yokohama Museum of Art, 2014-2015) sponsored by NHK and NHK Promotion.

     Based on the above research, the next research theme is a juxtaposition American and Japanese modes of visualizing modernity, with a particular focus on parallelism of artistic syntax as a signifier of national exceptionalism and cosmopolitan aestheticism, especially focused on landscape painting in the Gilded Age United States and Meiji-era Japan. After the American Civil War (1861-1865) and the Meiji Restoration (1868), the United States and Japan each worked to assert an exceptional national identity in tandem with expanding geopolitical ambition. In the United States, the Civil War ended in 1865, and in Japan, the Meiji Restoration was reached in 1868 after the conquest of the great government in 1867. And national unification also meant cultural unification. After the world’s first World Exposition was held in 1851, and globalization proceeded rapidly in the latter half of the 19th century, but in this globalism, Japan and the United States sought their own identities, The figure overlaps as a mirror image.

     In addition to the above research, I have published papers on preservation and use of historical buildings in Scotland. The research was focused on ‘Listed Buildings’ in Scotland, especially designed by Glasgow-born architect William Leiper whose works are known as Scottish Arts & Crafts and Aesthetic style in Scotland.

     As a teaching staff of the Faculty of Education, I have collaborated with regional museum for education program and published a paper on the methods of art appreciations as well as contributing exhibition realized by agreement between Shinshu University and Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum.