Commemorate of Acquisition: The Kawanishi Hide Collection

On The Kawanishi Hide Collection

  The works and reference materials the print artist Kawanishi Hide collected throughout his lifetime have been kept with care even after his death by his wife Narae and his third son Kawanishi Yuzaburo. Yuzaburo studied under his father Hide and is currently active as a print artist.
  The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto began purchasing the works and reference materials in "The Kawanishi Hide Collection" in 2006 (Heisei 18). The entire collection will be acquired by the end of the present fiscal year. There are altogether more than 1,100 works including small items such as newspaper fragments.
  It goes without saying that this collection includes oil paintings, watercolors, and drawings by Kawanishi Hide. There are also representative works by sosaku hanga [original or self-produced prints] artists such as Kawakami Sumio, Maekawa Senpan, and Maeda Toshiro and prints by so-called "avant-garde" artists such as Onchi Koshiro, Murayama Tomoyoshi, and Takamizawa Michinao. Furthermore, it is amazing that one third of the collection, i.e. 320 works, consists of works and materials by or on Takehisa Yumeji. Kawanishi said, "What I was impressed by most of all in my youth were Yumeji's paintings." Indeed, it would be no exaggeration to say that the Kawanishi Hide Collection grew "together with Yumeji." At the same time, we should not forget that this collection was built as a result of the exchanges between fellow artists Kawanishi Hide and Takehisa Yumeji.

I. Kawanishi Hide's Hitherto Unknown Encounter with Yumeji

  In April 1960 (Showa 35), a booklet entitled Collection (Nos.6 and 7 bound together, the 71st volume of the set) was published from Gallery Gohachi. This booklet was subtitled "Literary and Other Works by Takehisa Yumeji" and the opening article by Kawanishi Hide was entitled "Recollections of Yumeji." It begins as follows. "What I was impressed by most of all in my youth were Yumeji's paintings." What is most interesting about these recollections is that they describe how Kawanishi collected the works by Yumeji, which form the core of his collection.
  Kawanishi writes, "I was never happier than when the Spring volume of A Collection of Works by Yumeji was published." In fact, he keenly copied Karuta Reader, which appears in the Summer volume of A Collection of Works by Yumeji, and other works. When The 1st Exhibition of Works by Yumeji was held at Kyoto Library in Okazaki, Kawanishi went to see it all the way from Kobe. He later went to solo exhibitions held in Osaka and Kobe and purchased the works on show. The Setting Sun at the Riverside, Woman at a Teahouse, and Waterside were acquired on such occasions.
  In the same article, Kawanishi continues to comment that Minatoya Japonica-Cherryland, a [wrapping cloth] produced to commemorate the opening of Minatoya, is excellent and that Frog by a Willow Tree, a fukusa [small silk cloth], is beautiful, too. He introduces Poster of Zontag, Book of Kouta [Songs] with Illustrations as "a fine work typical of Yumeji." He also writes, "Senoo Gakufu published many scores, among which the covers of Beautiful Light and Wild Flowers in the Garden are particularly delightful." He finishes by remarking, "The letter from Yumeji is precious to me." The letter he refers to is dated 16th May 1927 (Showa 2).
  "Recollections of Yumeji" certainly exemplifies how fervently Kawanishi esteemed and loved Yumeji. In this section, the hitherto unknown exchanges between Kawanishi Hide and Takehisa Yumeji are introduced through the works and reference materials by Kawanishi and Yumeji included in this collection.

II. A New Image of Takehisa Yumeji

  There are six so-called nikuhitsuga [original paintings done by hand] by Takehisa Yumeji in the Kawanishi Hide Collection. Among them, (French) Woman with a Shawl, Woman (Poverty), and Portrait of a Man (Click-Clack), three works which are considered to have been painted in the 1920s, are being shown in public for the first time. In view of preservation, these three paintings have been remounted on silk. However, they were originally mounted temporarily by crudely fixing the four corners of the painting with paper. It is unusual for a painting by Yumeji mounted as a hanging scroll to be done in an improvisational manner like a drawing. This suggests that these pictures could have been done facilely before Kawanishi's eyes and handed to him in sheet form. Although the two women appear to be modern women at a café, it is interesting that the themes are entirely different. On the other hand, the portrait of the man no doubt reflects the attitude of Yumeji himself in his later years as if putting his past love affairs behind him in the late 1920s.
  Takehisa Yumeji has hitherto been widely known for his bijinga [pictures of beautiful women] in what is referred to as the "Yumeji style." Indeed, from the end of the Meiji period to the Taisho period, not only his works but his private life including his love affairs also seems to have been a popular topic of conversation. However, Yumeji also undertook numerous book designs, through which his creative images were circulated. He also designed items related to daily life such as chiyogami and stationery. In his later years, he even dreamed of constructing Mount Haruna Art Laboratory "in order to live a comfortable life."
  In his last stage of life, Yumeji traveled from America to Europe. Especially in Berlin, he taught nihonga [Japanese-style painting] at the Itten-Schule run by Johannes Itten, who was one of the meisters at the time the Bauhaus was founded. Ten ink paintings produced for reference at this school and a textbook entitled Der Begriff der Japanischen Malerei (1933) have been donated to The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto by surviving members of Itten's family. In the current exhibition, there are twenty additional works such as oil paintings, watercolors, nihonga, and reference materials on loan from the Takehisa Yumeji Ikaho Kinenkan, The Miyagi Museum of Art, and private collectors, which should give us an opportunity to reconsider the source of Yumeji's creativity and what should be appreciated most about his oeuvres.

III. The Exchanges Among Kawanishi Hide, Takehisa Yumeji,
   and "Avant-Garde" Artists

  Another feature of the Kawanishi Hide Collection is that it includes a considerable number of works by so-called "avant-garde" artists. Onchi Koshiro, who was influenced by Kandinsky and is regarded one of the pioneers of "abstract" expressions in Japan, sent a trial print, which has never been shown in public before, to Kawanishi Hide during the war in 1943 (Showa 18) and sought Kawanishi's opinion on his work from a higher level as a print artist. In addition, Onchi gave Kawanishi photographs he had taken in China. Also included in Kawanishi's collection are a precious linocut by Murayama Tomoyoshi, who was a key figure in the "avant-garde" activities of the 1920s in Japan, and a work by Takamizawa Michinao, which was included together with Murayama's linocut in Mavo Graphic 4: A Collection of Prints in Conscious Constructivist Style. Takamizawa later became known as the manga artist Tagawa Suiho. It is endlessly interesting to find out how Kawanishi obtained these works.
  There is also a print by Varvara Bubunova, who came to Japan after the Russian Revolution (1922), spent 35 years from then on in Japan, and also took part in "avant-garde" movements. Maeda Toshiro's Clock, a masterpiece combining linocut and photoengraving, and a series of prints by Maeda including Bingata are also valuable examples of the "avant-garde" tendency in the Kawanishi Hide Collection.
  Yanagiya Leaflet by Takehisa Yumeji demonstrates an "avant-garde" sensitivity which has features in common with Onishi Noboru's vivid abstract designs in Futurism Leaflet. Takehisa Yumeji's involvement in the "avant-garde" is a theme that has often been focused on hitherto and, in this section, too, Yumeji's "avant-garde" expressions are examined through Kawanishi Hide.

IV. The Entirety of The Kawanishi Hide Collection

  The Kawanishi Hide Collection consists of over 1,100 works and materials. As mentioned above, it is amazing that one third of this collection is composed of items concerning Takehisa Yumeji. While there are rare paintings which Yumeji is considered to have presented directly to Kawanishi, most of the other works are considered to have been purchased vigorously by Kawanishi.
  As for the works by artists other than Takehisa Yumeji, Kawanishi probably acquired them through opportunities to "exchange works" with the respective artists. Works by the sosaku hanga artists Harumura Tadao, Maekawa Senpan, and Kawakami Sumio were probably added to Kawanishi's collection through such exchanges.
  However, as Kawanishi himself recollects, it was because he was impressed by the prints by Yamamoto Kanae that he decided to pursue woodblock prints. The Kawanishi Hide Collection also includes a set of six prints by Yamamoto Kanae, which are extremely fine in quality. It is also interesting that there is a selection of prints produced by craftsmen such as Kawai Unosuke, Tomimoto Kenkichi, and Bernard Leach in their early years. As was the case with the "avant-garde" works introduced in the previous section, these examples also illustrate Kawanishi's broad field of vision not limited to sosaku hanga alone. To put it another way, such facts constitute another charm of the Kawanishi Hide Collection. This final section presents representative prints from the Kawanishi Hide Collection.
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