Kashima :
 Thank you very much for sparing your valuable time for us today. Today I will like to ask you about Tani Buncho and his school, and Edo Kano that originated from Kano Tanyu, which both dominated the significant part of Modern Edo Paintings. First will you take a look at this Buncho piece I acquired recently?
Yasumura :
 Ahh, a "kinpeki sansui" (deep-colored landscape painting with gold powder on the outlines). Between the Kansei Buncho and Karasu (crows) Buncho, he focused on painting "kinpeki sansui's", however the signature on this piece indicates it is from a much younger era. Moreover, the painting has more brightness than in the Kyouwa era, it feels as if it has been painted with sincerity. It might be an experimental "kinpeki sansui" piece from his earlier years, which is extremely interesting. This is a valuable piece that is worth study.
Kashima :
 It is printed in this "kenpokinenibokushu".
Yasumura :
 I see, the illustrated book is in black and white so one cannot discern this is a "kinpeki", but in real it is very beautiful and pure.
Kashima :
 I apologize in ahead if there is a leap in what I say though, it seems to me that I can find and see the similarities between this piece and Tachihara Kyousho. What do you think?
Yasumura :
 Yes, there are indeed similar. The calm air, the proper way it is painted and the feeling of the painting is just exactly alike a wide Sansui Jinbutsu-zu (picture of landscape and figures on sliding partitions) in Ibaragi's history center. By observing this piece, you can understand well that Kyousho had been considerably influenced by Buncho. By the way the 29th Suiboku Sansui-zu (landscape painting in water ink) in this "kenpokinenibokushu" is said to be one of his earlier pieces that is called Santo Buncho. One can see from this piece his effort in trial and error, which is fascinating. The foreground and the distant view are partitioned by clouds in the middle area, though the ink describing the distant mountain is too strong and there is a certain instability you feel. Still when thinking of a young Buncho muddling through mastering Chinese drawings, it is a likable piece.
Kashima :
 Buncho is said to be an Eclectic School, though what does this exactly mean?
Yasumura :
 I prefer categorizing him in the Edo School, though Buncho had acquired various genres of paintings such as Shazanro studio, Chinese paintings and Yamato-e (classical Japanese decorative paintings). Refering to them, Buncho studied everything from the Northern Sung paintings, Nanga style paintings, Kano school, Tosa school, Yamato-e, Nanbin school, Ukiyoe to Western painting, and within his power created the Buncho style. From this I think he is said to be an Eclectic school.
Kashima :
 How did the established Buncho's style of painting get introduced to the following painters?
Yasumura :
 Buncho did not enforce his pupils to learn his style of painting. It is said that he had more that 1000 disciples, and the majority of them preferred learning from looking at paintings that were in Shasanro, such as Chinese paintings to copying Buncho's pieces or learn from painting examples, which Buncho himself never forbad. Therefore after Buncho's death, the style Tani Buncho school didn't outlast. Instead, from within the people who studied from him, prestigious painters such as Watanabe Kazan, Tachihara Kyosho were remembered by their own name, not as a Buncho school members. Last year, we held an exhibition of Katsushika Hokusai, and Hokusai had his pupils learn from painting examples. Most private painting schools such as Kano School or Hanabusa school tried to improve painting skills by learning from painting examples. This method led to the formation of Schools. However from within this teaching method, painters that surpass masters could not easily emerge. We may say these are the merits and demerits of Methodism.
Kashima :
 Next would you please tell us about the relationship between Matsudaira Rakuo and Buncho. It is completely out of imagination, though do you think there was any possibility that when Buncho pilgrimed all around Japan for the preparation of "shukojusshu", he secretly was charged with an order from Rakuo and was stealthily searching into the affairs of each domain?
Yasumura :
 Hahaha,,, It would be intriguing if such a mystery story had occurred. A theory of Buncho being an undercover agent. But in reality Buncho is a painter. I think that it is reasonable to consider it was difficult for a mere painter to approach the feudal lord or the center of a domain. Rather we should think the purpose of Rakuo was the excavation and research of the cultural assets that had been scattered all over Japan. Buncho, complying with the main purpose vigorously copied present conditions. The important thing is even if there was no direct connection with Rakuo's project, later on this led to the Cultural Properties Protection Administration of the National treasure investigation personnel of the Meiji Government.
Kashima :
 Now, could you please tell us about Buncho's pupils? You regard Kita Busei as important, don't you?
Yasumura :
 Yes, I'm interested in him. Busei took over Buncho's style and he was able to copy his master's good points. The two-fold screen with the design of plants and flowers by Busei, which was exhibited in our museum and illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, is a fine piece suggesting how his master's birds and flowers painting is like. Busei not only followed Buncho's style but in fact he overtook his master and painted the Nirvana of Buddha copying a painting by Tanyu in one of temples of Ikegami Honmon-ji.
Kashima :
 He was multi-talented and took a broad view of things like his master.
Yasumura :
 I have been interested in Busei who learned from Buncho and overtook him, and I certainly will be in future as well. I also hope that fine works of Busei will come up to the market. By the way, you have been dealing with items as such, so you know that pictures will hardly appear until the price goes up. About twenty years ago we featured Soshiseki in our museum. Initially market price of his work was around several hundred thousands yen, however, after the exhibition closed it have leapt up immediately and became several score times price later on. It was a big surprise! The more price increases, the more items come up. As a matter of fact, quite number of his important works emerged afterwards. While it becomes difficult for us to acquire his works, it also helps for further study, a real dilemma.....
Kashima :
 Shall we move a topic to the Kano school? Tanyu was invited to Edo from Kyoto by the Tokugawa shogunate. I wonder if he was concerned to leave Kyoto keeping away from where the mainstream of Kano school working.
Yasumura :
 I do not think so. He was only a teenager and it is like a young business man in our time going to Tokyo to start new business looking for success. I guess he was ambitious to establish Kano school in uncultivated land with full of enthusiasm rather than anxiety. Tanyu was known as a very talented man. His ink painting in Nagoya Castle, which he painted in his mid-thirties, shows characteristics of typical Tanyu style. By that time his pupils already have learned to copy their master's style completely. They were able to paint in Tanyu style. It proves that Tanyu established his style in very early stage. I assume that the Edo Kano style - light, elegant and smart by making good use of space - has been already developed by then. Therefore, I thought he was excited to go to Edo rather than missing Kyoto regrettably.
Kashima :
 I am impressed about a story of Tanyu as a young genius. This is a little later, however, here's a triptych painted color on silk by Kano Isei-in, I brought today. Could you please take a look? What do you think of this?
Yasumura :
 Well, it is a nice triptych depicted a historical story of Zhuge Liang in central scroll and landscape on each side. As paintings on paper were kept in Edo Castle as for Shogun's stock but this is a painting on silk, so, it might have been commissioned by a noble family. Colorful figures and clouds in gold paint are characteristics of yamato-e style painting. In the period of Isei-in groups of private painters became powerful, which had painters in Daimyo families to learn Nanbin school or Rimpa school. Iseiin Naganobu was seriously concerned about the situation as such and he set out to re-establish the style of Kano school. Learning Chinese paintings again and utilizing techniques of yamato-e style painting, he tried to get out of the style to stick to the old Kano school and handed it over to his son, Seisen-in.
Kashima :
 It was just a brief session today, however, thank you very much for valuable talk. May I ask for your message to those who are interested in Japanese art as well as those who would like to learn it hereafter?
Yasumura :
 I simply would like to suggest to take art in your daily life. Works of Japanese art show its beauty when they are placed or used in our actual living. Anything would be fine - paintings, calligraphy, lacquer, ceramic, dolls, small works or tools. Please do try. Then, you will recognize how wonderful it is. It would be a fun to visit Kashima Arts to look for something nice.
Kashima :
 Thank you very much for adding our PR, too

*The dialogue was quoted from the -Bisai 5- exhibition order catalogue (Apr 2009).

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Kashima Morio

  • Kasima Arts Co., Ltd.
  • Kashima Morio
  • Founded Kasima Arts Co., Ltd for an art dealing company in 1988. Also established a secondhand book store. As a mail-order business, he has published a catalogue “Ochiho”.

Yasumura Toshinobu

  • Yasumura Toshinobu
  • Born in Toyama prefecture, 1953. Graduated the masters program at Tohoku University. Majored in Japanese modern art history. Enter the service of Itabashi Art Museum. Has held distinctively original exhibitions such as an exhibition series of Edo culture centering around Kano school. Chief literary works are "Knowing more of Kano School/ Tanyu and the Edo Kano School" (Tokyo Bijyutsu publishing), "Let's go out to art museums / following Ukiyoe" (SHINCHOSHA publishing), and many more.

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