Tōyōga (tongyanghwa in Korean, dongyanghua in Chinese) is translated into English as "Oriental-style painting." It refers to paintings with ink and mineral pigments on silk or paper.
The term tōyōga appeared in publications in Japan in the second half of the nineteenth century to compare and distinguish East Asian painting from oil painting, which became known as seiyōga. Tōyōga came into wider use in colonial Korea and Taiwan after the establishment of the Korea Fine Arts Exhibition in 1922 and the Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition in 1927, respectively. Each of these salons for contemporary art featured two divisions for painting, one for tōyōga and one for seiyōga (initially, the Korea Fine Arts Exhibition had also a third division for calligraphy. In 1932 it was abolished and replaced with crafts division). In this way, tōyōga was the equivalent of the metropolitan nihonga division in the colonies. In certain contexts, artists and critics used the term nihonga as a synonym to tōyōga.
The word tōyō means "the Orient." The name tōyōga suggests incorporation of East Asian painting styles. However, few literati paintings made it into the exhibition. In practice the tōyōga works at the Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibitions showed close stylistic resemblance to nihonga. Guo Xuehu's "Scenery Near Yuanshan", which received a special award at the second Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition, exemplifies this issue well. See discussion of Guo Xuehu's art to better understand the relationship of nihonga and tōyōga.
This page is referenced by:
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Studying Art in Colonial Libraries
On October 28, 1927, the first Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition opened in Taipei. It attracted a large crowd of 28,119 visitors in only ten days (Taiwan sōtokufu bunkyōkyoku shakaika 1934, 74). This juried salon for contemporary painting catered to interests of the Japanese colonial government and settler-artists. It projected an image of Japan as a benevolent colonizer, captured the attention of local audiences, functioned as part of the cultural assimilation policy, and provided Japanese artists in Taiwan with a highly publicized opportunity to promote their art. In addition, the salon attracted some Taiwanese Chinese artists. The young, largely self-taught painter Guo Xuehu (1908-2012) was one of them. (For a database with reproductions of all the Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition works click here.)
In fact, Guo Xuehu became one of only three Taiwanese Chinese whose works were accepted to the tōyōga divison at the first Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition. By 1932, he had established his position as a successful emerging artist in Taipei's art circles. In an essay penned in response to a Taiwan-wide competition for library users' stories, he looked back at his artistic debut and singled out the library as his “unparalleled teacher.” The essay received the second prize and was published in the Japanese language newspaper Taiwan nichinichi shinpō, turning him into a role model for other artists in Taiwan, who were not able to afford studying with an instructor or enroll in an art school in Japan. (Compare: Yen 2007, 103; see also Liao 2002, 216-217). For an English translation of the essay click here.
This module explores artistic infrastructures and the circulation of artistic knowledge in the Japanese empire by focusing on Guo Xuehu's essay. By the early 1930s, artists in Japan were becoming aware of Taiwan's art scene and many painters traveled to the island in pursuit of subject matter. Similarly, Japanese art world began to loom large in the imagination of young aspiring painters in Taiwan, which included Japanese settlers and Taiwanese Chinese. Some of these aspiring artists would leave Taiwan for Japan in pursuit of an artistic education and career.
Today, Guo Xuehu is considered to be a master of twentieth century painting in Taiwan. However, he is largely absent from the narratives of Japanese modern art. The national approach to Japanese modern art history obscures the involvement of Japanese artists in the imperial expansion as well as the presence of Korean and Taiwanese artists within the purview of the empire. By highlighting the intimacy between the Taiwanese and Japanese art worlds, this project helps us envision the Japanese art world in the 1930s on new terms. In this way, it is part of a larger body of scholarship that is committed to reshaping our understanding of space and boundaries of Japan as a multi-ethnic nation and a multi-national state in the interwar period (see, e.g., Oguma 2002; Morris-Suzuki 1998; McDonald 2017).
I argue that in the interwar period Japan's was an imperial art world (teikoku bijutsukai), intimately intertwined with the art worlds of Korea and Taiwan. The spaces of art exhibitions, ateliers, art schools, personal networks, and newspaper pages constituted this imperial art world. Circulation of information, goods, and people within the Japanese empire stimulated its emergence. It expanded as a spatial entity and a powerful idea. Artists, be it Japanese painters, settler-artists, or colonial subjects, came to understand and negotiate their own place within it. As producers of representations, they also shaped its image. An approach to Japanese modern art history that omits the empire is simply untenable.
This module consists of three interlocking pathways that coalesce around Guo Xuehu's prize-winning essay. Each pathway explores the intimacy between Japan's and Taiwan's art worlds through a different scale and infrastructure:
- the practice and discourse of art education (information/knowledge);
- the institution of the library and books (environment, vehicles);
- and, the career of an individual artist (figure).
Each pathway introduces relevant primary sources and questions as a material for discussion and research projects in a university classroom.
Click here for a list of references and suggestions for further readings for this module, which is also available from the module's Conclusion page.
Tōyōga Painter, Nihonga Artist
Ōsawa Sadayoshi; Araki Jippo; Yen Chuanying; Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere; Daitōa kyōeiken; Solitude; Silence
Taiwan Government-General Library
Nanzenji Temple, Kyoto
Kabayama Elementary School, location of the first Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition
Guo Xuehu displayed his paintings in the tōyōga division of the Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition. Nihonga painter and juror, Araki Jippo, made following comments on works in the tōyōga division at the salon in 1935:
I have heard that at the first and second Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition there were some extremely crude literati landscapes and flower paintings. Today, works on display have progressed and aren't any different from contemporary nihonga. It is truly a remarkable development (Araki 1935, 58).
Already in 1927, Japanese art critic, Ōsawa Sadayoshi (1886-?), suggested that the division itself was improperly named and should be called nihonga instead (Yen 2007, 86). Also, when Taiwanese tōyōga artists submitted their paintings to the salons in Tokyo in the 1930s and early 1940s, their works were on display in the nihonga division.
To address this conflation of nihonga and tōyōga, art historian Yen Chuanying has proposed an expanded definition of nihonga for the colonial period. She has described nihonga as painting with Eastern qualities under Japan's leadership (Yen 2009, 296; see also Lin 2008, 145). Similarly, Jason Kuo has argued that the naming of tōyōga division reflected Japan's ambitions to best represent East Asian art (Kuo 2000, 36).
Yen's political take on nihonga takes into account nihonga's popularity in Taiwan as well as its material affinity to painting in other East Asian countries vis-a-vis oil painting. It points to the cultural imperialism inherent in the official exhibitions' and Japanese artists' promotion of nihonga in the colonies. I argue that in the process Japanese artists lost their monopoly on nihonga. By the 1930s, nihonga became a creative medium for some Taiwanese Chinese artists. The naming of the tōyōga division helped to obscure this fact.
The shift in the meaning of nihonga became even more apparent in the early 1940s, when art critics in Japan began to discuss the implementation of the ideals of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (Daitōa kyōeiken) in art. Some art critics found it difficult to praise paintings at the metropolitan salon simply for depicting ideologically relevant and politically correct subject matter. So, they were relieved to notice paintings by young Korean and Taiwanese artists in the nihonga division. Art critics envisioned these colonial artists as the vanguard, leading the metropolitan salon to becoming a center for all cutting-edge artists from each region of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere in the near future (Kolodziej 2018, 217-218; Ōyama and Kimura 1942, 37). Such comments suggest that, under the wartime regime and imperialization policies, art critics began to imagine the boundaries between Japanese, Korean, and Taiwanese art in new ways.
One of Guo Xuehu's most striking works is “Solitude” (also translated as “Silence,” jakukyō in Japanese) from the 1933 Taiwan salon. This work is said to have been inspired by Guo's visit to the Nanzen Temple in Kyoto, during his first trip to Japan in autumn of 1931 (Taipei Fine Arts Museum 1989, 25). This painting includes typical elements of a literati landscape, with mountains, a waterfall, and trees. Yet, the unusual composition and execution in all encompassing dark color make it appear so fresh and modern, foreshadowing developments of postwar nihonga.
Guo Xuehu did not study art in Japan for any extended period, nor did he exhibit his works there in the prewar period, unlike some of his more wealthy peers. The Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition, the Taiwan Government-General Library, and the community of Japanese-settler artists in Taipei brought him into the purview of Japan's imperial art world. His paintings shared the stylistic and thematic concerns with nihonga artists, pushing the boundaries of the medium, and redefining its very premises. By rendering the distinction between nihonga and tōyōga superfluous, his work complicates our understanding of nihonga as simply “Japanese-style painting” or neo-traditional painting.
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postcards; art postcards; Kokka; Flowers of the Nation; Shinbi taikan; Selected Relics of Japanese Art
Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition
In his book for aspiring oil painters, Yamamoto Kanae, an oil painter himself, provided the following advice:
Another method to study painting is to see as many paintings as possible. I suggest going to exhibitions or, if one has an invitation, visiting ateliers of acquainted painters or those who live in the neighborhood. Above all, to work in oil painting, one has to see a lot of pictures by noted western artists. However, unless one travels to the West, it is impossible to see the original artworks. For this reason I advise to collect many photographic reproductions of famous works. Yamamoto Kanae, Aburae no egakikata (Yamamoto 1919, 38).
Writing in 1919, Yamamoto Kanae emphasizes the importance of perusing photographic reproductions at a time when access to original works (in this case oil paintings produced in the West) was limited.
Similarly, an observer writing for the Taiwan nichinichi shinpō in November 1930 advised artists in the tōyōga division of the Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition to study old paintings in private collections and by using the library. He pointed out that the Taipei library had the full run of the prestigious journal Kokka (Flowers of the Nation), twenty-volume set of Shinbi taikan (Selected Relics of Japanese Art), and many other books with reproductions (gashū) of works from various painting schools (Hekiteishujin 1930). Both Kokka and Shinbi taikan featured large size reproductions in highest print quality.
Another important medium that provided reproductions were art postcards. Sold at major art exhibitions, they enjoyed great popularity throughout the 1920s and 1930s with exhibition visitors and aspiring artists. In contrast to primarily black and white reproductions in art journals, the art postcards from major exhibitions in Japan at the time were printed in color, which greatly contributed to their appeal. Art postcards turned artworks into small, uniform, inexpensive, yet visually pleasant collectibles. They were easily transportable and allowed anyone to assemble a small “art collection.” Painter and exhibition juror Okada Saburōsuke (1869-1939) stated that since there was no permanent museum for modern art in Tokyo and art exhibitions were “temporary just like music,” only art postcards would help one to recall the artworks they had earlier seen in an exhibition (“Jōsetsu bijutsukan no mondai” 1933, 6). Also, artists used art postcards to promote their own work and exchange with their colleagues (Kolodziej 2020).
Many artists collected art postcards and made scrapbooks with reproductions of artworks. Today, some of the most well known extant examples of such collections belong to a Korean watercolor and oil artist Yi Insŏng (1912-1950) and two Taiwanese-Chinese oil painters, Chen Chengbo (1895-1947) and Chen Zhiqi (1906-1931). Yi Insŏng's art postcard collection was on display at the National Museum of Contemporary Art as part of “The Centennial Celebration of Lee In-Sung's Birth” exhibition in 2012. You can see a few art postcards from Chen Chengbo's collection on this page. To view the whole collection visit the Chen Cheng-po Cultural Foundation's website.
The growing availability and access to reproductions helped foster a shared knowledge of a vast set of images in Japan and across its empire. Yet, if the printing technology democratized access to art, the publishing industry retained a selective focus on art considered worthy of reproduction, highlighting contemporary art on display at major art exhibitions in Japan, masterpieces of Western art, and Japanese scholarship on the great works from the East Asian past.
To learn more more generally about postcards in Japan, visit the Leonard A. Lauder Collection at the MFA Boston and the East Asia Image Collection at Lafayette University.
Arts Section of the Classified Catalogue of Japanese and Chinese Books
tōyōga; tōyō; seiyōga
Taiwan Government-General Library
We can get a detailed understanding of available books by examining the collection catalogues. The library published its first classified catalogue in 1918 and every few years thereafter brought out additional volumes to account for its expanding collection and make it more easily searchable for the library users. Click here to see the classified catalogue of books in the arts, industry, and home economics sections acquired between 1918 and 1927.
Now, let us look at the 800 Arts section of the catalogue. This rather mundane classification of books into subsections, designed to improve access to information, largely followed the categorization scheme developed for the Imperial Library in the Meiji period. It reflected hierarchies between the genres and mapped out the boundaries of painting very loosely along geographic (but not necessarily ethnic) lines.
The subject headings in the Arts section of the Japanese and Chinese language books (Wakan tosho) catalogue contains the following subheadings:
- 800 Arts (Geijutsu)
- 810 Calligraphy and Painting (Shoga)
- 820 Sculpture and Metalwork
- 830 Lacquer
- 840 Plate-making and Printing
- 850 Photography
- 860 Music
- 870 Entertainment and Leisure
The 810 subsection for Calligraphy and Painting contains the following subheadings:
- 811 Painting / General
- 812 Japanese Painting (Nihonga) and Chinese Painting (Shinaga)
- 813 Japanese Painting (Nihonga) and Chinese Painting (Shinaga) / Organized by School
- 814 Western Painting (Yōga) and Contemporary Painting (Gendaiga)
- 815 Calligraphy (Sho)
- 816 Stylized Signatures (Kaō)
- 817 Seal Engraving, Books of Seals, Seals
The library's categorization does not include a subheading named “tōyōga,” which was the word Guo Xuehu used to describe one kind of painting he was studying at the library. The word tōyōga has appeared in publications in Japan in the Meiji period to compare and distinguish East Asian painting from its Western counterpart, seiyōga (also known as yōga). In fact, the subheading 812/813 encompasses Japanese and Chinese painting and corresponds to tōyōga. Section 8137, a subsection of 813, includes Chinese painting, Southern School, Northern School, and Literati Painting. The few books on Korean painting in the catalogue can also be found under the 812/813 subject heading.
The term tōyōga evokes the spatial category of “the East.” Stefan Tanaka has argued that tōyō, understood as China's past, was Japan's version of the “Orient,” or the uncivilized Other. He demonstrated how historian Shiratori Kurakichi (1865-1942), by strategically stressing similarities and differences between Japan and tōyō, succeeded in constructing a history of Japan that situated it within the framework of world history and elevated it as a modernized country in contrast to China, “a troubled placed mired in its past” (Tanaka 1993, 4).
Similarly, artists and critics in Meiji and Taishō period Japan, faced with the cultural imperialism of oil painting made in the West and with western Orientalism, responded with their own discourse on Japanese and East Asian art. This discourse aimed to prove the value and modernity of East Asian art, with Japan's art at its center. Japan's own Orientalism elevated selected genres of pre-modern East Asian art, while at the same time paying little heed to contemporary artistic production in colonized areas such as Korea and Taiwan. The attitudes towards Chinese art were more complex. In the 1920s and 1930s, artists from Japan and China organized a series of exhibitions together (Wong 2006). At the same time, they also competed with each other to represent East Asia through exhibitions in Europe and the USA (Su 2021). (For more discussion of tōyōga and nihonga in relation to Guo Xuehu's paintings see here). The inclusion of Japanese and Chinese painting under the same subheading gestures to this competition.
It is important to clarify that the category of seiyōga encompassed both paintings produced by European artists as well as works in oil and watercolor by Japanese artists. Thus, the distinction between tōyōga/nihonga and seiyōga was one of medium and widely conceived artistic traditions or “schools&rqduo; rather than a geographic designation or a label referring to the artist’s ethnicity or national origins. In a world where the access to art knowledge was growing globally and the differences in art education would shrink considerably in the decades to come (notice how Guo Xuehu points out the “dozens of thousands of people” as his potential art teachers in the library), policing regional differences became an increasingly complex undertaking.
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Guo Xuehu's Early Career and Paintings
Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition; nihonga; seiyōga; tōyōga; art historians
Kabayama Elementary School, location of the first Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition
Born in 1908, Guo Xuehu belongs to the first generation of artists in Taiwan who grew up under the Japanese colonial rule and who achieved professional recognition at the annual Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition (est. 1927). He traveled for the first time to Japan in 1931, visiting museums, temples, and artists in Kyoto and Tokyo. He returned to Japan in the 1950s and then moved there permanently in 1964. In 1978 he settled in Richmond, California. He passed away in 2012 (Taipei Fine Arts Museum 1989, 25; National Museum of History 2008).
The word “artist” doesn't have apparent spatial connotations like the word “migrant.” Yet, artists often travel or resettle in search of art education, subject matter, or art markets. More importantly, artists shape and mediate our understanding of place by representing landscapes and people in their art. Art historians evoke place when referring to an artist's country of origin, nationality, or ethnicity. They (we!) often unselfconsciously reinforce these spatial categories when working within an established canon.
Furthermore, art historians divide artworks into location-derived categories. For example, painting in Japan in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century has been divided into two categories: nihonga and seiyōga. Both of these categories evoke spatial entities, “Japan” and “the West” respectively. Artists and bureaucrats in Japan established these two categories in response to West's cultural imperialism. Institutions such as exhibitions, art associations, and art schools, upheld this division of painting into nihonga and seiyōga. However, the spatial associations of these two terms work to obscure rather than illuminate the actual artistic practice. Nihonga and seiyōga paintings share many stylistic and thematic similarities and the boundaries between them were often fluid. Artists in Japan debated the meanings of each category and many artists engaged in both media. Both categories reflect a Japan-centric view of global art in the time of empire.
This pathway examines Guo Xuehu's early career to illuminate how the artistic infrastructures of the Japanese empire influenced his early development as an artist and how, in turn, his work shaped the boundaries of nihonga. Guo Xuehu submitted his paintings to the tōyōga division of the Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition. The term tōyōga evokes the spatial category of “the East” or “the Orient.” However, paintings displayed in this category in Taiwan excluded literati painting. Instead, they centered nihonga works as the present and future of East Asian art and a worthy counterpart to oil painting. Ultimately, by promoting nihonga in the colony, Japanese artists lost their putative monopoly on nihonga and it became a creative medium for some Taiwanese-Chinese artists.
Moreover, this pathway demonstrates what it took to become an artist in the Japanese empire in the 1920s and 1930s. Guo Xuehu did not follow a typical path to artistic success because he was largely self-taught. Yet, as a an artist with an excellent exhibition record, he became successful in Taiwan's art establishment.
Questions for the classroom:
- What are the points of convergence and the respective silences in the histories of modern Taiwanese and Japanese art?
- How would Japanese modern art history look like if it featured Guo Xuehu as one of its protagonists?
- Why would art historians of Japan include him in their history? Or shouldn't they (we)?
- At what point has nihonga stopped being an artistic medium particular to Japan and Japanese artists? How can we conceptually describe this process?
"Three Youths of the Taiwan Salon"
artistic autumn; bijutsu no aki; Taiten san shōnen; Chen Jin; Lin Yushan; Masaki Naohiko; Mizuno Rentarō; Gotō Fumio; imperial art world; teikoku bijutsukai
Kabayama Elementary School, location of the first Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition
Imperial Fine Arts Academy
Tokyo School of Fine Arts
Guo Xuehu made his artistic debut in the fall of 1927, when his work “Stream Through Pine Ravine” (Shōgaku hisen) got accepted to the first Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition. He was one of the only three Taiwanese-Chinese artists whose works got accepted to the tōyōga division. The other two artists, Chen Jin (1907-1998) and Lin Yushan (1907-2004), were one year older than Guo Xuehu, and had studied in Japan. Art critics named Chen Jin, Lin Yushan, and Guo Xuehu the “Three Youths of the Taiwan Salon” (Taiten san shōnen), gesturing to their very young age (for an artist with an exhibition record) and the scandalous fact that all senior and much more experienced Taiwanese-Chinese artists in the tōyōga category, including Cai Xuexi, had their works rejected. Taiwan nichinichi shinpō announced the names of all artists and work titles accepted to the exhibition, reproduced selected works, and published multiple reviews. As a self-taught artist, Guo Xuehu felt enormous pressure to prove himself the following year.
“Stream Through Pine Ravine” is not a painting of an actual landscape. It is an ideal literati landscape, which includes all the common tropes, such as pine trees, waterfall, mountains, rocks, forests, and fog. At the same time, these elements are arranged in a way that creates a sense of perspective. For example, we can see smaller pines in the upper part of the work and bigger pines in the lower part. Also, the use of lighter and darker ink in the depiction of the mountains subtly enhances the sense of depth (Lin 2008, 24).
At the opening ceremony of the first Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition, Gotō Fumio (1884-1980), the Vice-Governor General, spoke to the crowd of invited guests and expressed his hopes that the exhibition would flourish and contribute to the “imperial art world” (teikoku bijutsukai) (“Nankoku bijutsu no dendō o kizuku hatsu no Taiwan Bijutsu Tenrankai”). The organizers also read congratulatory telegrams from Japan’s Minister of Education and the former organizer of the Korea Fine Arts Exhibition (Chōsen bijutsu tenrankai) Mizuno Rentarō (1868-1949), the director of the Imperial Fine Arts Academy Fukuhara Ryōjirō (1868-1932), and the director of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts Masaki Naohiko (1862-1940) (Nihon bijutsu nenkan Shōwa 3-nen 1928, 41). Thus, the organizers mobilized their contacts to major bureaucrats in the metropole to position their efforts within the imperial framework of art patronage.
The Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition was run with the help of four Japanese artists residing on the island: Gōhara Kotō (1887-1965), Kinoshita Seigai (1887-1988), Ishikawa Kin’ichirō (1871-1945), and Shiotsuki Tōho (1886-1954). The majority of participating artists were Japanese settlers (For the statistics on participation, see: square book & new visions). Some Taiwanese-Chinese were also interested in participating in this exhibition.
By the time the first Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition opened in Taipei, Japanese residents of the island were familiar with the hustle and bustle of the “artistic autumn” (bijutsu no aki) in the metropole. Taiwan nichinichi shinpō had for years been regularly reporting on the salon in Tokyo and other art-related events. The power of the press helped shape the popular image of an artist as a successful exhibition participant and a public figure. Also, exhibition participation promised an opportunity for sales and elevating an artist's standing in the art market. Nearly two months in advance of the salon's first opening in Taipei, the newspaper began extensive reporting on the topic, with the hopes of attracting potential participants and garnering a wide interest. Some anti-colonialists also supported Taiwanese-Chinese artists' participation in the official exhibitions, in belief that it was important to foster Taiwan's cultural production and demonstrate the accomplishments of Taiwan's artists (Kuo 2000, 9).
tōyōga; Cai Xuexi; Chen Yingsheng; Guo Jinhuo
Taipei Country College of Industry
Guo Xuehu's name at birth was Jinhuo. Jinhuo lost his father when he was only two years old and relied on his mother for support. In elementary school, he received his earliest formal art education—in watercolor—from his art instructor Chen Yingsheng. In 1923, he graduated from elementary school and enrolled in Taipei Country College of Industry to study engineering. Yet, he quit school after only one semester to pursue art. He needed to forge a viable career for himself.
In the 1920s and 1930s, aspiring artists in Taiwan, Japanese or Taiwanese-Chinese, had a few options to enter on a path of professional training. They could study privately with an art instructor, become an apprentice in a professional workshop, or leave Taiwan to attend an art school in Japan. In 1925, Guo Jinhuo entered a four month long apprenticeship with Cai Xuexi (1884-1964). The other two options were out of his financial reach.
Cai Xuexi was a professional painter from Fujian who specialized in ink painting. He taught Guo how to mount paintings and encouraged copying as a study method. He also gave Guo his artistic name “Xuehu,” under which he is known today. Guo learnt at his studio how to paint Daoist and other religious subjects (Kuo 2000, 49-50; Taipei Fine Arts Museum 1989, 17, 207). Moreover, the work in Cai's studio provided the young aspiring artist with an opportunity to view many paintings and thus contributed to his early art education.
When describing his artistic path in the essay submitted to the library contest just a few years later, Guo Xuehu downplays this apprenticeship and doesn't mention Cai Xuexi's name. Instead, he emphasizes how he got the job of a scroll mounter because it would allow him to look at “many great paintings.” In this way, he disassociates himself from Chinese painting traditions without directly disavowing them. Or, instead of being an artist who carries out painting traditions of one specific region (Fujian) or an ethnic group (Chinese), he claims a library-based education that spans large swaths of East Asia.
Cai Xuexi's paintings and those of some other artists working in ink painting and calligraphy traditions of the Qing dynasty were rejected from the first Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition. As far as we can judge from reproductions and remaining newspaper sources, the Japanese jurors at the Taiwan salon preferred paintings in style of contemporary nihonga works. They did accept some literati landscapes, yet overall these works appear more aligned with contemporary trends in literati painting in Japan rather than China. (It is difficult to do careful stylistic analysis when few original works from the first exhibition remain and you need to rely on small black and white reproductions. See this database for reproductions of all works from the Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibitions and information on participating artists.) For this reason, some art historians have criticized the concept of tōyōga as a misnomer and suggest that in fact works in the tōyōga division at the salon were stylistically so close to nihonga that the term itself stood for Japan's putative takeover of the leadership of East Asian painting (see Yen 2007, 85; Liao 1996, 43; Kuo 2000).
tōyōga; toyoga; Japanese style painting; Japanese-style painting
Nihonga is often translated into English as "Japanese style painting." It refers to paintings executed with ink and/or mineral pigments on paper or silk. Its major formats include hanging scrolls, handscrolls, folded screens, albums, and framed works.
Artists and art critics in Japan began to use this term in the second half of the nineteenth century to distinguish native modes of painting from oil painting and watercolor (seiyōga). The official exhibitions in Tokyo accepted submissions to the two respective divisions, nihonga and seiyōga. Other institutions, including art associations and art schools, also upheld the division between nihonga and seiyōga. However, the two modes of painting share many stylistic and thematic similarities; the boundaries between them were often fluid and contested. Many artists engaged in both.
In principle, the distinction between nihonga and seiyōga was based on the medium and the presumed set of traditions and masters each mode was indebted to, not on painter's nationality or the painting's subject matter. Both categories reflect a Japan-centric view of global art in the time of empire. Nihonga often artists took up styles of the Kano School, Rinpa School, Maruyama Shijō School, Yamato-e, and Ukiyo-e in their works. Generally, nihonga was viewed as distinct from literati painting. However, some modern nihonga artists did incorporate literati painting into their artistic practice; also, paintings in the literati tradition were displayed in the nihonga division at the salon.
Konoshima Ōkoku's "Drizzling Shower of Rain" is an example of nihonga. This work was on display at the first Ministry of Education Fine Arts Exhibition in 1907. It is a pair of six-fold screens depicting deer wading through wet grasses. Associations of the subject matter with autumn match the salon season of October. Konoshima Ōkoku's masterful brushwork received much acclaim. The work won a prize and the Ministry of Education purchased it for a prospective art museum. In 1922, the Ministry loaned it for display at a major exhibition of Japanese historic and contemporary art held at the Grand Palais in Paris. In 1923, Ōkoku's screens traveled to Seoul as one of the model works for the second Korea Fine Arts Exhibition.
In certain contexts, artists and critics used the term nihonga as a synonym of tōyōga, or "East Asian Painting." The equivalent of nihonga in Taiwan and Korea and a counterpart to seiyōga came to be known as tōyōga. By the 1930s, some artists from Korea and Taiwan, like Guo Xuehu, came to work in the medium of nihonga.
See discussion of Guo Xuehu's art to better understand the relationship of nihonga and tōyōga.
Kokka; Bijutsu gahō; Nihon bijutsu; model works
Taiwan Government-General Library
Taiwan Government-General Library carried three art journals in Japanese:
- Kokka (Flowers of the nation, from the very first issue, 1889-, including accompanying indexes);
- Nihon bijutsu (Japanese art, vol 17 no 3-6, 1915-1916);
- and, Bijutsu gahō (The magazine of art, from volume 33 1915 onward) (Taiwan Sōtokufu Toshokan 1918, 758).
This selection underscores the educational approach of the library, as both Kokka and Bijutsu gahō were the two major art journals at the time specializing in reproducing artworks.
Kokka is particularly famous for the high quality of its reproductions, both black and white photographs (collotypes) and multi-color woodblock prints. Founded by Okakura Tenshin and Takahashi Kenzō, this prestigious journal also published research on East Asian art and would become one of the pillars of Japanese art history (Satō 2004, 221-24; Satō 2011, 153-55). In November 1930, an observer writing for the Taiwan nichinichi shinpō pointed out that the library had the full run of Kokka and encouraged artists from the tōyōga division at the Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition to visit the library and peruse it (Hekiteishujin 1930).
Bijutsu gahō consisted primarily of reproductions, grouped under one of the two categories:
- sankōhin, which the magazine translated into English as “works of old masters or masterpieces” (which I translate throughout this module as “model works”);
- and, shinseihin, “works of living/contemporary artists.”
The editors put all deceased artists into the first category, irrespective of when they had passed. The second category featured often paintings on view at major contemporary art exhibitions in Japan, such as the Japan Art Association exhibit or the Fine Arts Exhibition organized by the Ministry of Education. The bilingual notice inside of the magazine explained its objectives:
The Magazine of Art has for its object the publication through its pages such standard works of old and new art, as it will serve for models of excellence an [sic] examples for reference in the various departments of art, for the benefit of the students and other persons wishing to acquaint themselves with the condition of Art in the Far East (Bijutsu gahō 1909, n. p).
The editors also included reproductions of some premodern artworks from the Asian continent preserved in collections in Japan. Yet, overall, art produced in Japan dominated the magazine.
By the 1920s, art journals began to appear as a motif on a number of still lifes on display at the official salons in Korea and Taiwan.
seiyōga; seiyoga; yoga;
Seiyōga, or yōga for short, is often translated into English as "Western-style painting." Artists and art critics began to use this term in Japan in the second half of the nineteenth century to describe oil painting and watercolor. They distinguished between this newly imported medium of painting from Europe and the native modes of painting executed with ink or mineral pigments on silk or paper, which became known as nihonga.
In principle, the distinction between nihonga and seiyōga was based on the medium and the presumed set of traditions and masters each mode was indebted to, not on painter's nationality or the painting's subject matter. Thus, seiyōga referred to oil paintings executed by Japanese artists and foreign artists. The categories of nihonga and seiyōga reflect a Japan-centric view of global art in the time of empire.
The official exhibitions in Tokyo accepted submissions to the two respective divisions, nihonga and seiyōga. Other institutions, including art associations and art schools, also upheld the division between nihonga and seiyōga. However, the two modes of painting share many stylistic and thematic similarities; the boundaries between them were often fluid and contested. Many artists engaged in both.
Okada Saburōsuke's "In the Bath" is an example of seiyōga. This painting was first on display in the seiyōga division of the fifth Ministry of Education Fine Arts Exhibition, held in Tokyo in 1911. It is a nude, one of the major subject matter of seiyōga. It shows the back of a woman, who is pinning up her hair. The pose displays well her nape and gives us also a glimpse of her breast. Other popular subject matter included landscape, history painting, genre painting, still life, and portrait.
The term seiyōga came into wider use in colonial Korea and Taiwan after the establishment of the Korea Fine Arts Exhibition in 1922 and the Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition in 1927, respectively. Each of these salons for contemporary art featured two divisions for painting, one for tōyōga and one for seiyōga. (Initially, the Korea Fine Arts Exhibition also had a third division for calligraphy. In 1932, it was abolished and replaced with a crafts division.) The majority of art students from Korea and Taiwan, who came to Japan to study painting in the 1920s and 1930s, pursued seiyōga.
This page references:
- 1 2020-01-02T02:06:03-05:00 Tōyōga Painter, Nihonga Artist 78 Ōsawa Sadayoshi; Araki Jippo; Yen Chuanying; Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere; Daitōa kyōeiken; Solitude; Silence plain 2021-10-04T17:41:46-04:00 25.0383, 121.5641 Taipei 25.04537, 121.52253 35.6833, 139.7833 Tokyo 25.04086, 121.51122 35.01141, 135.79448 1927-1942 Magdalena Kolodziej Taiwan Government-General Library Nanzenji Temple, Kyoto Guo Xuehu Araki Jippo Ōsawa Sadayoshi Kabayama Elementary School, location of the first Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition
- 1 2020-08-17T22:43:12-04:00 Nihonga 29 tōyōga; toyoga; Japanese style painting; Japanese-style painting plain 2021-08-03T09:00:27-04:00 Magdalena Kolodziej
- 1 2020-08-17T22:44:15-04:00 Seiyōga 23 seiyōga; seiyoga; yoga; plain 2021-03-11T10:33:35-05:00 Magdalena Kolodziej
- 1 media/guo xuehu 1928 scenery near yuanshan_thumb.jpg 2019-11-18T17:20:14-05:00 Guo Xuehu, Scenery Near Yuanshan, 1928. 8 Guo Xuehu's "Scenery Near Yuanshan," first on display at the second Taiwan Fine Arts Exhibition, 1928. Today in the collection of Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei. media/guo xuehu 1928 scenery near yuanshan.jpg plain 2021-08-01T01:25:26-04:00 Kuo Hsueh-Hu Foundation. 20190430 133459 Kuo Hsueh-Hu Foundation. Used with permission. Magdalena Kolodziej MK-0040
- 1 2020-09-04T22:51:14-04:00 Literati Painting 7 bunjinga; nanga; wenrenhua plain 2021-08-06T00:45:28-04:00 Magdalena Kolodziej