(Japanese, 1871-1945)
View of Ogura lake
signed 'ISHIKAWA-KIN' (lower right)
watercolour on paper
40 x 53 cm. (15 3/4 x 20 7/8 in.)
Private Collection, Japan

Lot Essay

Christie's is pleased to present a special selection dedicated to a group of Japanese artists who had a great impact on the interaction of Japanese and European art during the 20th Century.

In an international context the artists featured in this section each helped to set a new Eastern artistic path as the result of the exchanges between the two heterogeneous cultures. After discovering Western art mainly in Paris at the Julian Academie, and in England and America, selected talented Yoga-style Japanese artists, such as Kinichiro Ishikawa, were sent to Taiwan, where the Japanese government implemented a series of polices designed to shape the island into a model colony. This policy marked a rapid modernization and a crucial period of vast changes. The Japanese authority perceived art teaching as a great means of development and set up national schools and official fine art exhibitions, creating a flourishing art scene in which young Taiwanese artist were given the opportunity to promote their work. Under Japanese rule, Taiwanese painters not only successfully declared the beginning of Taiwan's modern fine art but also enlightened aspiring artists of later generations. This artistic phenomenon was simultaneously mirrored in Japan, where Kanokogi Takeshiro, as the Director of the Kansai Academy of Fine Arts and a member of the Bunten and Teiten government-sponsored art organizations, nurtured the artistic debate under the Meiji era with a whole new Western perspective.

"In appraising landscape, what is our measure of aesthetic beauty? At the end, besides the eye of the beholder, there are no other objective criteria of measure. This may sound trite, yet it forms the foundation of aesthetics. Beauty is in the eye and mind of the beholder - there is no other way." (Kinichiro Ishikawa)

Japanese painting at that time was inspired by the naturalistic techniques of literature and began to develop the skills in sketching and painting from real objects. For example Ishikawa Kinichiro himself had a lot of such skills, and taught his Taiwanese students to carefully observe the earth and sky, which inspired them to see and portray their homeland in a new light. We notice similarly in Kinichiro Ishikawa, Kanokogi Takeshiro, Kitaro Mano, Shinzo Kawai and Miyake Kokki's works that Western style watercolour combined with a refined Japanese sensibility was used as a way of capturing the sensorial essence of nature. They integrated the play of light and shadow of Impressionism and Fauvist-like bold colours into traditional Japanese art, creating paintings of local themes with more freedom, a wide colour spectrum and impressive lines. They all structure their composition around a far vanishing point creating a great sense of depth and lightness. Kitaro Mano's Carnation Flowers (Lot 307) offers the same attention towards depicting nature using watercolour in a delicate thorough manner, subtly expressing the ephemeral beauty of the flowers. While Japanese culture and nature triggered the revolutionary Impressionist movement in Europe, the Japanese painters featured in this selection embody perfectly the artistic opening of the early 20th Century, introducing a new chapter in Japanese modern art history at the threshold of contemporary cultural exchange and our globalized world.

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