Northeast Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - Imagining Asia in a World at War: Miyamoto Saburō

Saturday, July 7
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Mahogany, First Floor

Miyamoto Saburō (1905-1974) felt he had come to grips with the essence of Western art and stood on the brink of artistic maturity when study in France was cut short by the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939, forcing him to leave Paris, eventually returning to a Japan already dressed in khaki shades of war in March 1940. Soon marshalled like most artists for the conflict with China, and then 'globalized' for the "Greater East Asia War," this aficionado of nudes and flowers, produced paintings of Battle and War’s great moments on the scale of European masters like Leonardo da Vinci and Velásquez. His ability to capture and infuse with true beauty scenes of a dauntless Japanese infantry attack on the Continent, or a parachute assault in the Indies where chutes and clouds overhang the troopers, was matched only in his tableaux of Japanese triumphalism like "The Meeting of General Yamashita and General Percival" at Singapore in 1942. To understand how the war stretched his geographic palette, we must pair such works prepared for mass exhibition with his intimate studies of "Hunger and Thirst," sketches of Australian and Indian POWs, local Malay girls, and 'native' workers, as he soaked up "the South" and extended his imagination to battles over a squall-torn sea. "The House of Death," his immediate postwar masterpiece, seems a universal cry against Death itself, something he had avoided in his war art. Miyamoto then returned to his prewar themes with gusto until his death.

Theodore F. Cook, Jr.

William Paterson University, United States

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