July to August 1996 Editorials

OUR SPECIAL JAPANESE issues are published once a year, with the aim of presenting some subjects that are new to stimulate our readers’ fresh interest, while maintaining long-term continuity. For our former Japanese issue, the January-February 1995, the prints of the prolific artist Utagawa Kunisada (1787-1863) – painter, poet, graphic designer, fashion designer, art director, cartoonist and trend-setter – held pride of place as featured artist. For this issue, the work of the senior contemporary Japanese painter Kaii Higashiyama, who has recently celebrated his eighty-eighth birthday, has been chosen.

Sir Hugh Cortazzi, a regular contributor to ARTS OF ASIA who has authored the article, tells me that he has always admired the work of this painter in the traditional Japanese style. Examples are in the Imperial Palace as well as the personal residence of the Emperor and Empress, and in the Togu-gosho, the residence of the Japanese Crown Prince. Paintings by him have been given to the Queen of England and to the President of the United States by the Emperor and Empress. Sir Hugh particularly admires the artist’s paintings in the Toshodaiji at Nara. Of both Japanese and Chinese landscapes, these underline Japan’s cultural debt to China and the artist’s deep understanding of nature. They convey in a masterly way the Japanese feeling for stillness and tranquillity.

Sir Hugh has also said that he is greatly indebted to the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the Japanese financial daily, which gives good coverage to cultural events and supports the work of great artists. I join him in thanking the artist and Mr Shozo Tamura, the Director responsible for cultural projects at the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, for their cooperation in the preparation of this material for publication and in supplying the illustrations.

For our cover article this time, Elmer Funkhouser, an American international executive whose work has brought him to live and travel in Europe and Asia, traces through his own collection the development of the kind of old photographs that were made in Japan for visitors “to take home and show their friends, much as people today purchase postcards”. I would like to encourage the revival of interest in such period photographs and would welcome more articles on early photography from other parts of Asia.

While for continuity this July-August 1996 magazine carries Ms Irene Finch’s second article, “Composing in Colour: Outlining on Japanese Porcelain”, the long-time contributor Timothy Mertel, owner with his partner Alan Pate of the gallery L’Asie Exotique in La Jolla, California, writes on the gosho-ningyo palace dolls in the Ayervais Collection, with accompanying photographs taken by Robert Rick and Michael Ayervais (a professional photographer). It is appropriate that I should draw our readers’ attentions to “Sun & Star 1996”, a one hundred days celebration of Japanese culture being held in September through early December in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. Described as “the most significant festival of Japanese culture ever planned for the United States”, almost every cultural institution in the area will be presenting an exhibition or event exploring historical or contemporary Japanese culture. The exhibition “Japan’s Golden Age: Momoyama”, which is being held at the Dallas Museum of Art, is the centre-piece featuring many Japanese National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties that are rarely on display in Japan. The striking Hanya (demon) mask,(1) is on loan from the Tokyo National Museum. The Momoyama era was a period between 1573 and 1615. Although brief, it is considered pivotal in Japanese history. It was a time of radical transition, when Japan turned from brutal civil war to peace and prosperity under a unified government.

Momoyama, meaning “peach hill tree”, was the site of a great castle and residence built for Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the most remarkable figures in Japanese history. Through his brilliant military and diplomatic skills, Hideyoshi rose from obscurity and, in keeping with the Japanese ideal which links military skills with aesthetic refinement, he was an outstanding supporter of the arts. His taste as a patron ranged from rustic objects of the tea ceremony to the grandest of decorative arts. In addition to objects that Hideyoshi is thought to have owned – such as a beautiful lacquer saddle and a writing table – there are portraits of him in the exhibition and of other important Japanese of the period, including of Hona Tadakatsu (1548-1610)(2) on loan from the Honda Family, Tokyo. Other highlights are richly painted folding and sliding screens, some depicting life in Kyoto.

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