Arts and Culture
The story of the development of modern Japanese painting is usually told as a dual progression of nihonga (Japanese-style painting) and yoga (Western-style painting, primarily known as oil painting). This paper will argue that for the period around the first quarter of the twentieth century, the Japanese watercolour movement played its role as the third force in modern Japanese painting. Furthermore, for the Japanese watercolourists Britain and not France was the Mecca of watercolour and provided the ideal artistic environment to express modern landscape painting. In Japan as in most other countries, watercolour painting was regarded as a second-class citizen. However, the Japanese watercolour movement showed three distinct characteristics that marked it as separate from the mainstream oil painters in Japan: first, they had an untiring and charismatic leader in Oshita Tojiro; second, they published a major art journal, Mizue, to express and disseminate their somewhat exclusivist ideas; finally, they had their own educational institution in Suisaiga Kenkyujo. Among others, there are three main achievements which highlight their contributions to modern Japanese painting: first, they were pioneers of modern Japanese landscape painting; second, they established watercolour painting as a distinct artistic category in Japan; finally, they contributed to the democratization of the art of painting in Japan. This paper will explore the transnational discourse between Japanese and British art that stimulated this new and innovative form of artistic expression.