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1900-1910

History

Around the turn of the century Japan was a fascinating country in many ways. Most readers will have more than a passing knowledge of Japanese history, but it is useful to emphasize several points.
First of all, in 1900, Commodore Perryĺs arrival in Tokyo Bay in 1854 was still in the living memory of many Japanese. In 1854 Japan had been a medieval feudal society, hardly touched by Western ideas. There had been some contacts of course, the story of the Dutch settlement at Deshima is well-known, but 99% of all Japanese had no knowledge of the world outside Japan. Forty-six years later Japan was a democracy, had railroads, heavy industry, hospitals, a telegraph system, and a disciplined and well-organized army, which had amazed the world five years previously by beating China in a fiercely-fought war. How had that been achieved?
The leaders of the Meiji Restoration of 1867 were very determined to give Japan its rightful place in the modern world. They looked around and selected those ingredients that they thought were useful, while preserving their national and cultural integrity. Not all this was done deliberately, but at no time were the Meiji leaders prepared to indiscriminately swallow all that the West had to offer. They kept a cool head, and they borrowed all that could further their ends: for their new colleges and universities they employed teachers and professors from the West, until they had their own. They bought industrial knowledge, until they could stand on their own legs, and then they often produced better products than those they were modelled on.
Still, all those modern developments were grafted on to Japanese society, they did not develop from within Japanese society. Japanese social life remained pretty much as it had always been. So from the start, from the last quarter of the 19th century onwards, there were really two Japanese realities: the modern, imported world, and the traditional world, and this dichotomy continued well into the 20th century, and has not completely disappeared, even nowadays at the beginning of the 21st century.
Battleship Mikasa The Meiji period leaders soon found out that once the doors to the Western world were open all kinds of thoughts, theories and ideas came in that were in favour of change instead of tradition. For, basically, the Meiji leaders were conservatives, and not in favour of all philosophies that the West had to offer. In 1901, for instance, they outlawed the newly founded socialist party. During the war with Imperial Russia, in 1904-5, Meiji efficiency and determination once more won the day. Now Japan was universally recognized as a modern nation. If the victory over China could have been regarded as a fluke, Russia was a modern, and more importantly, a Western nation, and the Japanese victory was in fact the first time in modern times that a Western nation had been defeated by a non-Western one. The UK had been quick to spot the importance of Japan: in January1902 the Anglo-Japanese alliance was concluded, establishing Japan as a world power.

Artistic developments

In the world of art the two worlds, the imported West and the traditional East were perhaps even more visible than in Japanese society at large. Here too the battle was fiercely fought. In the early Meiji period much traditional art had been abandoned in favour of imported art, until an American, Ernest Fenollosa (1853-1908) intervened successfully. He had come to Japan in 1878 at the invitation of American zoologist and Orientalist Edward S. Morse to teach political economy and philosophy at the Imperial University at Tokyo. There he studied ancient temples, shrines and art treasures. He did a great deal to make the Japanese realize the value of their art and their artistic tradition. At the same time that Western-style painting was taught in Tokyo the Tokyo Art School was established in 1889 with the express aim of promoting the study of traditional art. Already at the end of the 19th century Japanese artists had gone to Europe. One of them, the painter Kuroda Seiki (1866-1924) had made quite a name for himself in Paris, and his paintings had even been accepted in the Salon. When he returned to Japan in 1893, his example was quickly followed by others. One of the most important painters who made a long tour of Europe was Takeuchi Seih˘ (1864-1942). On his return in 1901 he even changed the Kanji of Seih˘ (incorporating the character for ôWestö) to indicate how profound the experience had been. Seih˘ĺs development as an artist is very much a case in point. He had read Ruskinĺs Modern Painters, and one of his paintings was exhibited at the Fifth International Exposition of Art and Industry in Paris in 1900, which was visited by Seih˘ himself.
In the first decade of the 20th century Japanese artists were generally as well informed of developments in the European art scene as e.g. American artists. In 1907 the Ministry of Education decided to establish a kind of annual official exhibition, the Bunten, much in line with the Paris Salon. There were three separate sections: Western-style painting, Japanese-style painting and sculpture. Japanese-style painting and Western-style painting were kept strictly separate and possible mutual influences were officially ignored.
Kanae Yamamoto fisherman It is important to emphasize at this point that most S˘saku Hanga artists from this period thought of themselves primarily as painters, and many had in fact been trained as painters. Well-known in this connection are Yamamoto Kanae (1882-1946) , Ishii Hakutei (1882-1958) and Minami Kunz˘ (1883-1950). They, and other S˘saku Hanga artists in this first and exciting period were profoundly influenced by the newest artistic developments coming from Europe, especially Art Nouveau. The first influential magazine, H˘sun, begun in 1907, was closely modelled on the German magazine Jugend, which first appeared in 1896. The members of the so-called H˘sun-group (named so in retrospective), were and are the most imortant S˘saku Hanga artists from this period. Apart from the three mentioned previously we have Morita Tsunetomo (1881-1933), Oda Kazuma (1881-1956), Sakamoto Hanjir˘ (1882-1969) and Hirafuku Hyakusui (1877-1933). Interesting is that apart from the last-mentioned, all others were born within two years of each other.
These were heady times for young artists. They were in the centre of a maelstrom of vastly different influences. They had to be eclectic and so they were. Allegiances shifted continually. In the literature Yamamoto Kanaeĺs print Gyofu ľ Picture of a fisherman, poublished in Ishii Hakuteiĺs magazine Myojo in 1904, is generally seen as the start of the S˘saku Hanga (= Creative Print) movement. So much talent was bound to produce something relevant, and much more was to follow in the following years.

Acknowledgment: for this and the other essays on this website I have made use of all the literature at my disposal (see my Reference Section), and I am profoundly grateful for all the fine work done by so many people. The division into decades was inspired by Donald Jenkinsĺ catalogue Images of a Changing World, Japanese prints of the twentieth century, a very important catalogue, published as long ago as 1983, and which was the first publication to open my eyes to the beauty of these prints.

Prints made in this decade:


  Artists active in this decade,
who can be found on this website:

Ishii, Hakutei
 
Prints by artist
Abe, Sh˘ko  
Akiyama, Iwao  
Asada, Benji  
Asaga, Manjir˘  
Asahi, Masahide  
Asano, Takeji  
Asano, Yuichi  
Azechi, Umetar˘  
Binnie, Paul  
Dantsuka, Gyor˘   
Ebata, Yoshiichi  
Fujiki, Kikumaro  
Fujimori, Shizuo  
Fukami, Gashu  
Fukazawa, Sakuichi  
Hagiwara, Hideo  
Hashimoto, Okiie  
Hatsuyama, Shigeru  
Hayashi, Waichi  
Hiratsuka, Un'ichi  
Hiroshima, Shintar˘  
Homma, Rie  
Homma, Yoichir˘  
Hori, Yoshiji (堀義二)  
Id˘, Masao  
Inagaki, Tomoo  
Inatsugi, Junz˘  
Ishii, Hakutei  
Ishii, Ry˘suke  
Ishii, Tsuruz˘  
Ishizaki, Shigetoshi  
It˘, Kennosuke  
It˘, Ryosaku  
Ito, Takayoshi  
Iwasaki, Miwako  
Izumida Koji  
Johnson, Lois  
Kadowaki, Shun'ichi  
Kamei, T˘bei  
Karhu, Clifton  
Katase, Kazuhiro  
Kat˘, Tetsunosuke  
Kat˘, Yasu  
Katsuhira, Tokushi  
Kawachi, Seiko  
Kawakami, Sumio  
Kawanishi, Hide  
Kawano, Kaoru  
Kawasaki, Kyosen  
Kikuchi, Zenjir˘  
Kitaoka, Fumio  
Kitazawa, Shűji  
Kodama, Takamura  
Koga, Misao  
Koga, Nobuyoshi  
Koizumi, Kishio  
Konishi, Seiichir˘  
K˘saka, Gajin  
Kozaki, Kan  
Kristensen, Tom  
Kuriyama, Shigeru  
Kuroki, Sadao  
Kusaka, Satomi  
Lyon, Mike  
Maeda, Masao  
Maeda, T˘shir˘  
Maekawa, Senpan  
Maki, Haku  
Makino, Munenori  
Matsubara, Naoko  
Minami, Kunz˘   
Miyamoto, Shufu  
Miyao, Shigeo  
Miyata, Masayuki  
Miyata, Sabur˘  
Mori, D˘shun  
Moritani, Rikio  
Murakami, Gyojin  
Murayama, Kank˘  
Mut˘, Kan-ichi  
Nagare, K˘ji  
Nakagawa, Isaku  
Nakano, Yoichi  
Nakayama, Tadashi  
Nara, Enami  
Nemoto, Kagai  
Nitta, J˘  
Noriko, Suizu  
Nunomura, Shin'ichi  
Ogawa, Tatsuhiko  
Okamoto, Ryusei  
ďkubo, Yutaka  
ďmoto, Yasushi  
Onchi, K˘shir˘  
Ono, Tadashige  
ďta, Sabur˘  
Sait˘, Kimiko  
Sait˘, Kiyoshi  
Sakamoto, Hanjir˘  
Sakamoto, Isamu  
Sasajima, Kihei  
Sat˘, Ch˘zan 佐藤 朝山  
Sekino, Jun'ichir˘  
Sewai, Koichi  
Shiba, Hideo  
Shima, Tamami  
Shimizu, K˘ichi  
Shimizu, Masahiro  
Shimozawa, Kihachir˘  
Suzuki, Atsuko  
Tagawa, Ken  
Takada, Kazuo  
Takagi, Shir˘  
Takahashi, Shin'ichi  
Takahashi, Tasabur˘  
Takeda, Gentar˘  
Takeda, Shintar˘  
Takeda, T.  
Tanaka, Kuniz˘   
Taninaka, Yasunori  
Tobari, Kogan  
Tokuriki, Tomikichir˘  
Tomimoto, Kenkichi  
Tsukamoto, Shigeru  
Tsukamoto, Tetsu  
Tsuruta, Gor˘  
Uchida, Shizuma  
Uekawa, Ai 上川愛  
Unidentified  
Various  
Wakayama, Yasoji  
Yamada, Akiyo  
Yamagishi, Kazue  
Yamaguchi, Gen  
Yamaguchi, Susumu  
Yamataka, Naboru  
Yasui, S˘tar˘  
Yoshida, Hodaka  

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