This painting from the now-defunct Meguro Gajoen Museum, a collection formed before World War II by Tokyo industrialist Hosokawa Rikizo, embodies the expansive optimism of the culture of interwar Japan. The second Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937 and Japan entered the period many Japanese have referred to as the "dark valley" of the war years.
Three women enjoying a hike on a spring day have stopped to rest high on a hillside among flowering azalea bushes. Using a traditional format, the folding screen, the artist celebrates the self-assured and chic "modern girl." These fashionable young woman are self-absorbed but the soft, "feminine" painting style contributes to their seductive appeal. Fumie's brushwork has the loose, painterly quality of a watercolor.
These modern girls ("moga") make a compelling statement for changes in woman's identity in the early twentieth century. The era was subversive to patriarchal values as younger women challenged conventions and constraints. Consumerism (fashion, make up and unreflective emulation of Western trends) empowered women and awakened them to options (love and romance, for example) that helped them redefine themselves.
Fumie, a Tokyo native, attended Tokyo Girls' Art School and graduated from the Fine Arts division of Bunka Gakuen in 1934. She studied with the renowned Nihonga painter Kawabata Ryushi (1885-1966) and was one of only a very few women who exhibited with his group, the Blue Dragon Society (Seiryusha). This pair of screens was shown in the society's 1937 exhibition in Tokyo when she was only twenty-seven.