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  • 1 Budapest, Bocskai ut 46–48., H-1113 Hungary
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Abstract

In this paper would like to follow the notion of ‘Japan’ and ‘art’ in connection with three significant writings on ‘Japanese painting’ and ‘Japanese art’. The ‘Collection on painting’, completed in 1623 by Kanou Ikkei (1599–1662), is a ‘discourse on painting’, which follows a traditional Chinese genre: writings on painting theory, criticism, principles or classification, also including books on painting subjects, history and biographies of painters. Ikkei in his work, which was completed shortly after the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate at the beginning of the 17th century, introduced Chinese painting theory and Chinese painting subjects. Ikkei in his later work, in the ‘Collection of young trees of painting’, completed around 1655 – when Japan already closed its borders –, recorded the biographies of 153 Japanese painters. This work can be considered the first book on ‘Japanese painting’, however at that time the concept of ‘Japanese art’ was not established yet. The Japanese term meaning art was constructed as late as the second half of the 19th century from a translation of a western term. At that time in Japan ‘Westernization’, meaning political, economical, social and cultural modernization took place, and a new nation-state was formed after the opening up of its ports: both the concept of ‘Japan’ and ‘art’ was re-defined. The Histoire de l’Art du Japon published for the 1900 Paris World Exhibition, was the first work in which Japan introduced its own art to the ‘foreign’ world, based on Western concepts, compiled and produced by the Tokyo Imperial Museum under the orders of the Japanese government.

  • 1. Honchou tsugan, the ‘Comprehensive mirror of the land of the rising sun’ told the history of the country from the earliest times until 1611. The work was finally completed around 1670. For further reference: Beasley, W.G. and Blacker, Carmen, Japanese historical writing in the Tokugawa period (1603–1868), in: Historical Writing on the Peoples of Asia. Historians of China and Japan, ed. by Beasley, W.G. and Pulleyblank, E.G., London 1961, pp. 245263.

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  • 2. Some of those artists were ranked among the élite group of the military class.

  • 3. Satou, Doushin: Bijutsu to kaisou [Art and Social strata], in: MUSEUM 545, Tokyo National Museum 1996, pp. 5776.

  • 4. Kokonchomonjuu compiled by Tachibana no Narisue in 1254 (Nihon koten bungaku taikei 84), Tokyo 1979. See Book XI, Chapter 16: Gato (Painting) pp. 383406. There are even earlier examples of records of family trees of Buddhist sculptors, for example in the ‘Diary of Yoshida Tsunefusa’ (Kikki), dated 1181, we can find a chapter related to such a genealogy.

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  • 5. Touhaku gasetsu. This is considered to be the first essay by a painter in Japan: ‘discourses on painting’ or ‘art theory’ (garon) and ‘artist historiography’ (gakashiron). Tanaka, Hisao: Nihon bijutsushigakushi josetsu [Preliminaries of the study of Japanese art history writing], in: The Seijo bungei pp. 125128, 137, Tokyo, see also Linhàrtova, Věra: Sur un fond blancĖcrits japonais sur la peinture du IXe au XIXe siècle, Paris 1996.

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  • 6. Tuhui baojian by Xia Wenyuan (jp. Ka Bungen, 1296–1370), dated to 1365. The five chapter work was known in Japan by the early Muromachi period. The first chapter is on painting theory, mostly based on the writings of the leading painting theorists of the Song and Yuan periods. Beginning with the second chapter are short biographies of roughly 1 500 painters.

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  • 7. The text is published in Sakazaki, Tan (ed), Nihongaron taikan [Japanese art theory writing survey], Vol. 1, Tokyo 1927, pp. 663738.

  • 8. The text is reproduced in Sakazaki, Tan (ed.), Nihongaron taikan [Japanese art theory writing survey], Vol. 2, pp. 923950. Jakuboku in literal translation means ‘young trees’, although it might stand for ‘Japan’ as a contemporary poetic term.

  • 9. Kanou Sosen's (also known as Nobumasa, 1607–58) no longer extant work was an even more detailed biography, published earlier than the ‘Collection of young trees of painting’, in 1649, but was lost soon after its completion.

  • 10. Meiji bungaku zenshuu 79: Meiji geijutsu – bungakuronshuu [Meiji period literature anthology 79: Meiji art – literary criticism anthology], Tokyo 1975.

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  • 11. Mabuchi, Akiko: Senkyuuhaku nen Pari bankoku hakurankai to Histoire de l’Art du Japon wo megutte [About the 1900 Paris World Exhibition and the Histoire de l'art du Japon], in: International Symposium on the Preservation of Cultural Property and the Present and the Discipline of Art History in Japan, Tokyo 1999, pp. 4351.

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