Forgotten Japonisme

Entrance Hall, No. 1 Kensington Palace Gardens, London
House conversion by Wells Coates (Arch.)
As featured in the Architectural Review, Vol. 72, July 1932.

Led by TrAIN Director Professor Toshio Watanabe, Forgotten Japonisme was a major three year research project funded by the AHRC. Between October 2007 and October 2010, this project explored a previously neglected period in the study of Western attitudes towards Japanese art: from the 1920s to the 1950s. By examining a broad range of visual culture – including architecture, craft, design, garden design, painting, print-making and sculpture – and also focusing on individual case studies, those involved in the project seek to achieve a new understanding of transnational interactions between Japan, Britain and the USA.

Within existing studies of the taste for Japanese art in the West, two distinct periods have come to prominence. These are the period from the mid 19th century to the early 20th century, when Japanese art made a strong impact on Western culture, and the period from the 1960s to the present, particularly after the 1964 Tokyo Olympics – when a new image of Japanese visual culture emerged with the Tokaido bullet train, Kenzo Tange’s daring buildings and Yusaku Kamekura’s clean and bold posters. What happened in between these periods however has never been systematically investigated, and there is a tacit understanding that a taste for Japanese art was impossible during the Second World War. This project aims to provide evidence that this was not the case, and will investigate both negative and positive attitudes towards Japanese art from the 1920s to the 1950s.

Case studies included the work of Wells Coates, William Staite Murray, Isamu Noguchi, Russel Wright, Frederick Starr and Mark Tobey; the early 20th century woodcut revival in Britain, and Japanese gardens in Ireland, the UK and the USA. Wider strands of investigation included a consideration of any continuity between classic 19th century Japonisme and the image of hi-tech modern Japan, and an examination of how the taste for Japanese art affected the development of modernism.

The research team included a further three core members of the Research Centre: Dr Yuko Kikuchi, Rebecca Salter and Dr Julian Stair. They were joined by two external experts, from Japan and the USAAHRC Research Fellow Dr Anna Basham, and AHRC Research Student Piotr Splawski. During the course of the project, three themed workshops and a conference allowed additional external experts to contribute.

Forgotten Japonisme Conference

This conference with international renowned speakers from Japan, USA and UK will consider, among other questions, the received view of the West as the sole purveyor of modernity in art, Japanese inspiration within the development of modernism in the West, and the relationship between the taste for Chinese and Japanese art during this period. The boundaries of the notions of the West and also of Japonisme will be tested.

We are pleased to announce the keynote speaker for the Forgotten Japonisme conference will be Professor Shigemi Inaga of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Kyoto, Japan who is an expert on comparative literature and culture and on history of cultural exchange, including Japonisme. He is the author of a number of award-winning scholarly books.

Other speakers include:
Professor Stan Abe of Duke University, North Carolina, USA who specialises in Chinese art, theory and criticism. His research focuses particularly on Chinese Buddhist art, and the role of China and Japan in Early Rockefeller Collecting.
Author of Longfellow’s Tattoos: Tourism, Collecting, and Japan, Dr Christine Guthleads the Asian Specialism on the V&A/RCA MA History of Design Course.
Dr Angus Lockyer, Lecturer in the History of Japan and Chair of the Japan Research Centre at SOAS, University of London.
Dr Sarah Teasley, historian of Japanese design and tutor in the Departments of History of Design and Critical & Historical Studies at the RCA.

Members of the Forgotten Japonisme project:
Professor Toshio Watanabe, Principle Investigator
Dr Yuko Kikuchi, Co-investigator
Rebecca Salter, Co-investigator
Dr Julian Stair, Co-investigator
Professor Yasuko Suga, Tsuda University, Tokyo, External team member
Dr Sachiko Oguma, Guest Curator, The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, External team member
Dr Anna Basham, AHRC Research Fellow
Helena CapkovaAHRC PhD Research Student
Piotr Splawski, AHRC PhD Research Student


Friday 9 July 2010

Morning Chair: Professor Deborah Cherry, University of Amsterdam, Associate Director of TrAIN and Co-director of Critical Curating, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

10.00 – 10.20 Registration

10.20 – 10.30 Introduction by Professor Toshio Watanabe

10.30 – 11.15 Keynote speaker Professor Shigemi Inaga:
Question of Oriental Aesthetics: antithesis to Design?

11.15 – 11.30 Coffee

11.30 – 12.00 Rebecca Salter: ‘Object as Metaphor’ – anthropologist collector of Japanese artefacts, Frederick Starr

12.00 – 12.30 Dr Sachiko Oguma: The Distribution of Japanese Artefacts in the USAfrom 1900s to 1960s

12.30 – 13.00 Professor Stanley Abe:
A Modern Taste for Chinese and Japanese Art

13.00 – 14.30 Lunch

Afternoon Chair: Dr Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere, Director of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC)

14.30 – 15.00 Dr Julian Stair: Japanning the Sung: The Emergence and Impact of Japonisme in Interwar English Studio Ceramics

15.00 – 15.30 Dr Anna Basham: Wells Coates’ Modernist Japonisme: Dovetailing East and West in 1930s Britain

15.30 – 15.45 Tea

15.45 – 16.15 Helena Čapková: St. Luke’s International Hospital: a transnational project in the heart of modern Tokyo

16.15 – 16.45 Piotr Spławski: From Japonisme to a Paradigm Shift in American Art Education: Arthur Wesley Dow’s Educational Vision Becomes Paradigmatic

16.45 – 17.15 Dr Christine Guth:
The Forgotten Japonisme of Pearl Buck’s The Big Wave

17.15 Close

Saturday 10 July 2010

Chair: Professor Oriana Baddeley, Deputy Director of TrAIN and Associate Dean of Research CCW (Camberwell, Chelsea and Wimbledon), University of the Arts London.

10.00 – 10.20 Registration

10.20 – 10.30 Introduction by Professor Toshio Watanabe

10.30 – 11.00 Professor Yasuko Suga: Promotion of Modern Japonisme: national representation through ‘sangyô-kôgei’

11.00 – 11.30 Dr Yuko Kikuchi:
American Occupation and Cold War Japonisme: containment and mixed marriage in design and film

11.30 – 11.45 Coffee

11.45 – 12.15 Dr Sarah Teasley:
When is Toshiba not ‘Japanese design’? The postwar politics of design, craft and Japaneseness

12.15 – 12.45 Dr Angus Lockyer: Forgettable Japan? A refuge from the world on show, before and after the war

12.45 – 14.15 Lunch

14.15 – 14.45 Professor Toshio Watanabe: Transnational Identity of a Garden: Gardens of Manzanar Internment Camp, California and Queen Lili’uokalani Garden at Hilo, Hawai’i

14.45 – 15.00 Annotated Bibliography and Chronologies
Presentation by Dr Anna Basham

15.00 – 15.15 Tea

15.15 – 17.15 Panel discussion

17.15 Close