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1 / Converging Cultures

Chi Kan Jo (Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment)
Chi Kan Jo (Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment)
Artist / Origin Kuroda Seiki (Japanese, 1866–1924)
Region: East Asia
Date 1897–1900
Material Oil on canvas
Medium: Painting
Dimensions H: 70 4/5 in. (180 cm.), W: 39 1/5 in. (99.8 cm.)
Location Kuroda Memorial Hall, National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, Japan
Credit Courtesy of National Research Institute of Cultural Properties, Tokyo, Japan

expert perspective

Julie Nelson DavisAssociate Professor of the History of Art, University of Pennsylvania

Additional Resources

Bryson, Norman. “Westernizing Bodies: Women, Art, and Power in Meiji Yōga”. In Gender and Power in the Japanese Visual Field, edited by Joshua S. Marrow, Norman Bryson, and Maribeth Graybill. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2003.

Clark, John. “Yōga in Japan: Model or Exception? Modernity in Japanese Art 1850s–1940s.” Art History 18.2, (June 1995): 253-85.

Guth, Christine M.E. “Japan 1868–1945: Art, Architecture, and National Identity.” Art Journal, 55.3 (Autumn 1996): 16–20.

Kuroda Memorial Hall Web site. http://www.tobunken.go.jp/kuroda/index_e.html.

Mason, Penelope. History of Japanese Art. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2004.

Rimer, J. Thomas, ed. Not a Song Like Any Other: An Anthology of Writings by Mori Ogai. Honolulu: University of Hawai’I Press, 2004.

Shuji, Takashina, J. Thomas Rimer, and Gerald Bolas, eds. Paris in Japan: The Japanese Encounter with European Painting. Saint Louis, MO: Washington University, 1987.

Stanley-Baker, Joan. Japanese Art, rev. and expanded ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2000.

Chi Kan Jo (Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment)

» Kuroda Seiki (Japanese, 1866–1924)

In the mid-nineteenth century, Japan abandoned its Seclusion Policy after some two centuries of limited international contact.

During the Meiji era, which lasted from 1868 to 1912, interaction with the outside world was vigorously promoted. The Meiji government was intent on the modernization of Japan, an agenda that meant both the adoption of new technologies and the acquisition of Western knowledge.

Artistic and cultural exchange between Japan and the West flourished under the Meiji rulers. At the same time, the growing desire to define a national identity meant that artists were self-consciously looking back at traditional Japanese styles and techniques. These two conflicting trends led to the emergence of yōga, Japanese oil on canvas painting in the Western style, and nihonga, or Japanese-style painting.

Like a number of other practitioners of yōga, Seiki Kuroda received his artistic training in Europe, where he studied with French painter Raphael Collin. From Collin, Kuroda learned the art of plein air painting, or painting out-of-doors, and developed an interest in representing the female nude, a perennial motif in Western art and a mainstay of Parisian Salon exhibitions. Although Japanese audiences were quite familiar with erotic prints, the notion that the naked woman, allegorical or otherwise, could be the subject of large-scale formal painting was entirely new to them.

Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment, one of the artist’s most controversial works, was created in 1899, six years after Kuroda had returned to Japan from Paris and shortly after he was named the first professor of Western-style painting at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. In the triptych, or three-paneled work, Kuroda attempts to meld aspects of Japanese and European art. His three nude figures, justified by the painting’s allegorical title, are rendered with the plasticity and volume typical of French academic painting. Yet, the gold, planar background is reminiscent of the gilded folding screens popular during Japan’s Momoyama Period (1573–1615).

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