Yasui Sotaro and Art of Japan: The Impact of Paris
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Yasui Sotaro (1888-1955) was born in Kyoto and he is famous for yoga (Western-style) portraiture. It is clear that this talented individual understood his vocation because he pursued a career in art despite his family desiring a more commercial career. Therefore, from an early age he was clearly determined and focused and in time he would blossom in the art field.
He was very fortunate to have studied under Asai Chu who sadly died in 1907 when Yasui Sotaro was still a teenager. Asai Chu was a stunning Japanese painter who inspired many artists in Japan. This notably applies to Yasui Sotaro, Suda Kunitaro, Umehara Ryuzaburo, and other artists who were inspired by Asai Chu.
Not surprisingly, Yasui Sotaro also moved to France just like Asai Chu had done during his lifetime. He moved to Paris in 1907 and stayed until 1914 and this period of his life was very beneficial. Indeed, it is clear that Yasui Sotaro was extremely lucky to have studied under Asai Chu in Japan and then under Jean-Paul Laurens at the Academie Julian.
During his stay in Paris he became influenced by the art of Paul Cezanne, Jean-Francois Millet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. It is stated that he was especially influenced by Paul Cezanne. Therefore, the fusions of Japanese art and European art along with the rich vibrancy of the Paris art scene, impacted greatly on this talented individual. However, with the outbreak of World War One he had to return to Japan but Paris had clearly inspired him during his stay in France.
Yasui Sotaro, Umehara Ryuuzaburo, Ishii Hakutei, and Fujishima Takeji, had all gained from their experience in France. They also studied in this country in the same timeframe. Indeed, the power of France influenced Ishi Hakutei to introduce the art of Rodin and Renoir to the Tokyo art scene.
The following decade witnessed recurring problems related to the health of Yasui Sotaro but from an art point of view it was a time of further growth. Yasui Sotaro in this period focused on vibrant colors and outlines which were clear. Therefore, you can notice his style within the landscapes and portraits that he produced. Also, traditional Nihonga techniques fused naturally with realism and other thought patterns that he learnt in France.
Notable art pieces by Yasui Sotaro include Black-haired Woman, Portrait of a Woman, Early Summer, Autumn at Lake Towada, A Suburb of Kyoto, Girl in New-Year Clothes, Roses, and Chin-Jung.However, throughout his career he produced many stunning pieces of art which have blessed the art world.
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Some Japanese art and cultural articles by Modern Tokyo Times are republished in order to highlight the unique reality of Japan to our growing international readership.