Art of Japan and the richness of Culture: Kanzan Shimomura (1873 to 1930)

Art of Japan and the richness of Culture: Kanzan Shimomura (1873 to 1930)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Kanzan Shimomura (1873 to 1930) was born during the early years of the Meiji Period (1868-1912). This period was revolutionary for Japan based on modernization and enormous cultural and economic convulsions.

Despite this, Kanzan was molded by the rich heritage of his family who produced many Noh actors. Equally important, his birthplace Wakayama is famous for Buddhist and Shinto pilgrimages. Therefore, the world of high culture was a way of life for his family.

At the tender age of eight, Kanzan moved to Tokyo and soon art would become his vocation. One can only imagine how the rural nature of Wakayama and the modernization of Tokyo altered him.

Kanzan was blessed to study under Kanō Hōgai and Hashimoto Gahō. For much of this part of his life, the Tōkyō Bijutsu Gakkō was extremely important. This applies to study and then teaching at this prestigious place.

However, between 1903-1905 Kanzan moved to England. Thus this experience impacted him greatly. This relates to the huge gap in culture and artistic traditions. Yet, the binding nature of modernization was a shared connection even if both nations were at different stages.

Kanzan was faithful to the art world he knew despite coming into contact with different Western art forms. Hence, the influence of early Japanese Buddhist art, the schools of Kanō and Tosa, Rinpa (Rimpa), and the natural changes of Nihonga flowed naturally to him. However, the one noticeable difference was the influence of England and realism on aspects of his future art.

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