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The Invention of “Folk Crafts”: Yanagi Sōetsu and Mingei

Folk painting as defined by Yanagi Sōetsu: from revolutionary painters to pictorial revolution

Le discours de Yanagi Sōetsu sur la « peinture populaire » : des peintres révolutionnaires à la révolution picturale
Christophe Marquet

Abstracts

After he focused on Pre-Modern Japanese and Korean folk paintings, Yanagi Sōetsu revolutionized the concept of “painting” in order to revitalize contemporary art/creation.

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Editor’s note

Original release: Christophe Marquet, « Le discours de Yanagi Sōetsu sur la « peinture populaire » : des peintres révolutionnaires à la révolution picturale », Cipango [En ligne], 16 | 2009, mis en ligne le 15 novembre 2011, DOI: 10.4000/cipango.372.

Author’s note

I would like to thank the Tokyo Folk Crafts Museum, and in particular its former curator Mr Ogyū Shinzō, as well as the Shizuoka City Serizawa Keisuke Art Museum, for having kindly authorised me to reproduce the works presented in this article.

In tribute to the memory of Mrs Utsumi Teiko (1932-2011), international director of the Tokyo Folk Crafts Museum.

Full text

A revolution is needed in the concept of painting.
絵画の概念には一革命がなければならない。
Yanagi Sōetsu, “Essay on Painting”, 1934

  • 1 Of the 129 items only two were graphic works and these were modern creations: a woodblock print by (...)

1With its emphasis on folk crafts and furniture, the Musée du Quai Branly exhibition The Mingei Spirit in Japan made little more than a passing reference to pictorial art.1 Yet the Mingei movement cannot be summed up as a simple revival of the craft industry or a crucible of modern design, for its founder, Yanagi Sōetsu, was also instrumental in the field of pictorial art. The importance of his role is measured less by the number of paintings left by the movement’s members, few of whom were painters, and more by Yanagi’s rediscovery – or reappraisal – of a little known and often disparaged category of Edo period art: “folk painting”.

2It is on this fundamental aspect of the Mingei movement that I will focus by analysing Yanagi’s approach to certain pictorial forms of folk art in Korea and Japan, and the ideology he developed based on these artworks in order to appeal for a revolution in the very concept of painting.

The discovery of Korean folk paintings

  • 2 At the beginning of the 1910s – despite being barely in his twenties  Yanagi wrote a series of art (...)

3Towards the end of the 1910s Yanagi’s focus visibly shifted from modern Western art to East-Asian art and, consequently, from the cult of individual expression to anonymous, popular forms of painting rooted in Korean and Japanese traditions. This radical change in Yanagi’s views may seem surprising given that just a few years earlier, he and fellow Shirakaba members were singing the praises of the artists who “revolutionised” Western pictorial art, such as Van Gogh, Gauguin and Matisse, because they were seen as symbolising a symbiosis between the search for originality, individual expression and personal destiny.2 However, one could consider that, in some ways, Yanagi merely transposed onto Eastern folk art his enthusiasm for a certain primitivism that had fascinated him in Post-Impressionist painters.

  • 3 Cf. Yanagi Sōetsu, Chōsen minzoku bijutsu tenrankai ni tsuite” 朝鮮民族美術展覧會に就て (On the Korean Folk Ar (...)
  • 4 「西洋の藝術に親んだ吾々は、いつか自らの故郷である東洋の藝術を省みる時が来るであらう」, ibid., p. 85.

4The cause of this change in Yanagi’s focus and views partly resides in his visits to a then recently colonised Korea from 1916 onwards, as encouraged by Asakawa Noritaka 浅川伯教 (1884-1964), a young teacher living in Seoul who had his sights set on becoming a sculptor and whose shared passion for Rodin had led him to meet the artist two years earlier. Asakawa began by introducing Yanagi to Korean folk pottery, and in particular the white Yi Dynasty porcelain wares used in everyday life. As early as 1921, Yanagi was able to organise his first Korean art exhibition in a small gallery in Kanda, Tokyo. He purposely chose the expression minzoku bijutsu 民族美術 (accompanied by the English equivalent, Folk Art) to refer to an entire category of previously overlooked “folk” wares.3 In addition to a majority of ceramics, this category included paintings from the late Chosun period (1392-1910), a revelation for Yanagi in the sense that they opened his eyes to a form of modernity that was neither Western nor individual. “The time will come for those of us familiar with Western art to reconsider the art of the Far-East, our native land”, he declared during the exhibition, placing both Korea and Japan in the same crucible.4

Yanagi Sōetsu at the Korean Folk Art Exhibition held in 1921 at the Ruissō Gallery in Kanda (Tokyo)

Yanagi Sōetsu at the Korean Folk Art Exhibition held in 1921 at the Ruissō Gallery in Kanda (Tokyo)
  • 5 Cf. Yanagi Sōetsu, ‘“Chōsen minzoku bijutsukan’ no setsuritsu ni tsuite” 「朝鮮民族美術館」の設立に就て (On the Cr (...)
  • 6 Cf. Yanagi Sōetsu, Ushinawaren to suru ichi Chōsen kenchiku no tame ni” 失なわれんとする一朝鮮建築のために (In Defe (...)

5With the help of Asakawa, Yanagi launched a campaign to establish a Korean Folk Crafts Museum (Chōsen minzoku bijutsukan 朝鮮民族美術館) designed to promote the value of artworks from recent centuries ‘linked to the life of the people’ and to study the history behind them. A further objective was to encourage the creation of new oriental ‘handicrafts’ (shugei 手藝), the two men lamenting their decline under the influence of the material civilisation of the West.5 The spirit of the movement Yanagi would soon name Mingei was thus already taking shape: it combined the safeguarding of existing works with the creation of new ones. The museum opened its doors in Seoul three years later, in two pavilions of the former royal palace of Gyeongbok 景福宮, which Yanagi had helped save from destruction by opposing the Japanese authorities’ plans.6 It was through his campaign for the defence and recognition of Korean folk crafts that Yanagi became aware of the possibilities offered by pictorial art.

The Korean Folk Crafts Museum, founded in 1924 in the former Royal Palace in Seoul

The Korean Folk Crafts Museum, founded in 1924 in the former Royal Palace in Seoul
  • 7 Yanagi Sōetsu, “Chōsen-ga o nagamete” 朝鮮を眺めて (Contemplation of a Korean Painting), Mingei, no. 59, (...)

6Although Yanagi discovered Korean folk paintings in the late 1910s, he did not come to write about them until much later, in three texts published in the final years of his life, in 1957 and 1959, notably in a special issue devoted to the subject in the journal Mingei.7

  • 8 For further information on this genre, see Yeolsu Yoon, Folk Painting. Handbook of Korean Art vol 4(...)

7The first of these texts was inspired by the discovery of a painting mounted on folding screen belonging to a genre known as ŏhaedo 魚蟹圖, literally “painting of fish and crabs”,8 which symbolised prosperity, fertility and family harmony, and was thus intended for use in bridal or marital chambers.

Crabs and Water Lilies

Crabs and Water Lilies

Korean folk painting from the Yanagi Collection, 19th century, Mingeikan

8Behind the rather clumsy craftsmanship and fanciful composition of this anonymous painting from the mid-Chosun period – the work of one of the itinerant painters who travelled from village to village  Yanagi detected a kind of nonchalance unconcerned with realism. The criteria usually applied to modern painting, such as individual genius and technical mastery, became irrelevant in the face of such artworks. In fact, while contemplating this painting, Yanagi spoke of his boredom with modern art founded on aesthetic discourses and theories, and driven by a never-ending search for originality. He discovered the possibility of “another way”, in which he saw a renewed focus on a teaching from the Heart Sutra (Hannya shinkyō 般若心経): “To be without attachment is to be without fear” (keige naki ga yue ni kufu aru koto nashi 無罫礙故無有恐怖).

  • 9 Yanagi Sōetsu, “Fushigi-na chōsen minga”, op. cit., YSZ, vol. 6, 1981, p. 510.

9However, for Yanagi, detachment and appeasement were not the only virtues of this Korean folk painting founded on popular beliefs. It was the late 1950s, a period marked by the triumphant success of abstract art, and yet Yanagi was discovering in Korean folk painting a new kind of modernity capable of rivalling that of contemporary artists:9

From our point of view these paintings possess a great beauty. Their infinite originality is such that they exist in no other country. Suppose that an artist capable of creating all of these types of painting was born today; he would doubtless be acclaimed and become a celebrity in his time. In any case, he would be perceived as an original creator. Would such novelty, at a time when abstract art and transcending realism are the centre of attention, not mark him out, to the point of creating a new school of art?

処が今日の吾々から見ると、とても美しい所がある。極めて独創的で、一寸他国にその例を見ぬ程の絵である。仮りにこんな絵を一人で種々と描く画家が今輩出したら、さぞや喝采を博して、著名な一世の画家とまで成るであらう。兎に角大した独創的作家といふ評判をかち得るに違ひない。大いに新しさがあるのであつて、此頃ではさしづめその超写実的な所や、抽象的性質が注目されて、鮮かに一派を創る画家とさへ目されるのではあるまいか。

10For Yanagi, Korean painting was worthy of being studied not only for its history but for what it could teach contemporary artists, who would be astonished by its combination of “modernity” and “freedom”.

  • 10 Yanagi Sōetsu, “Chōsen no minga”, op. cit., YSZ, vol. 6, 1981, p. 515.

11One of the principal virtues of Yanagi’s work on Korean folk painting – an art form somewhat ignored by collectors, museums and art historians until then – was that he was the first to propose classifying artworks by subject matter and to explain their characteristics.10 He thus succeeded in developing a five-category typology, with each type of painting having its own particular function and use:

  • paintings composed of ornamental Chinese characters with a moral connotation (moji-e 文字絵) and which visually explain the meaning of these characters;

  • auspicious paintings (kikkyō ni chinamu mono 吉凶に因むもの), such as the guardian tiger from the four directional deities;

  • paintings with traditional themes (dentō-teki gadai no mono 伝統的画題のもの);

  • still lifes (seibutsu-ga 静物画), mainly those depicting scholarly implements;

  • paintings inspired by the Three Teachings: Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism (ju, butsu, dō no sankyō ni hassuru mono 儒、仏、道の三教に発するもの).

Tiger with Cubs

Tiger with Cubs

Korean folk painting from the Serizawa Collection, 19th century, Serizawa Keisuke Art Museum, Shizuoka City

Folding Screen of Scholarly Implements (close-up)

Folding Screen of Scholarly Implements (close-up)

Korean folk painting from the Yanagi Collection, Mingeikan, Tokyo

  • 11 Cho Cha-yong (sometimes transcribed as Zo Zayong), a Harvard-trained Korean architect, was among th (...)
  • 12 Cf. Hong Sŏn-pyo 洪善杓, “Chōsen minga no atarashii rikai” 朝鮮民画の新しい理解, Bessatsu Taiyō. Kankoku, Chōsen (...)

12This approach to Korean folk painting was particularly ahead of its time considering that, even in Korea, interest in this art form only emerged in the 1960s, in the wake of Yanagi’s research, thanks in particular to the work of Cho Cha-yong 趙子庸 (1926-2000), the father of Korean folk art studies.11 Moreover, the term minga (minhwa in Korean), literally “painting of the people”, was later adopted in reference to this genre which had previously been considered a minor, “unorthodox” art. Korean researchers initially conducted their research within the parameters of Yanagi’s framework of a folk art that was both “national” – in other words free from Chinese influence and reflecting Korean lifestyles, patterns of thinking and beliefs – and “modernistic”, in the sense that its formal primitivism was interpreted by some as being one of the influences of modern art.12

  • 13 Catalogue for the exhibition Pan’gapta! uri minhwa / Ureshii! Chōsen minga / Happy! Joseon Folk Pai (...)
  • 14 On the evolution of research on Korean folk painting since Yanagi, see Chŏng Pyŏng-mo 鄭炳模, “Chōsen (...)

13In 2005 an unprecedented exhibition consisting of 120 Korean folk paintings from Japanese collections was held for the first time in a Korean public institution, at the Seoul Museum of History in partnership with the Nihon Mingeikan, the Japan Folk Crafts Museum founded by Yanagi13. The exhibition was designed to pay tribute to Yanagi Sōetsu, whose research and defence of Korean folk art enabled significant examples of these paintings to be preserved. It also provided the opportunity to present new interpretations of the concept of “folk painting” by Korean researchers.14

Ōtsu-e: a folk art combining religious devotion, satire and morality

  • 15 Based on the introduction to his book Shoki Ōtsu-e 初期大津 (The Beginnings of Ōtsu-e, 1929), reprinte (...)
  • 16 See, among others, a series of texts by Yanagi on Tsukishima monogatari emaki 築嶋物語絵巻 (The Tale of T (...)
  • 17 Yanagi explained his broad conception of folk painting in “Minga ni tsuite” について (On Folk Paintin (...)

14From the end of the 1910s, alongside his discovery of Korean paintings, Yanagi also discovered Japanese paintings from the town of Ōtsu (Ōtsu-e),15 as well as various forms of popular graphic art. These ranged from anonymous, naïve-style illuminated scrolls,16 to the engraved illustrations of early Edo-period incunables, to glass paintings and Buddhist prints.17

The Tale of Tsukishima Scroll (Tsukishima Monogatari Emaki) (close-up

The Tale of Tsukishima Scroll (Tsukishima Monogatari Emaki) (close-up

Illuminated scroll from the Yanagi Collection, 16th century, presented in the journal Kōgei in 1936. Mingeikan, Tokyo.

  • 18 Yanagi Sōetsu, Zakki no bi 雑器の美 (The Beauty of Miscellaneous Wares), 1927. Based on Mizuo Hiroshi (...)

15Yanagi gradually developed the generic concept of “folk painting” for these works and coined the term minga 民畫, occasionally giving it the equivalent English terms of “peasant painting” and “folk painting”. The term minga, which went on to enjoy considerable success, was used for the first time by Yanagi in a 1927 book in which he wrote about the rustic paintings of the Edo period:18

To the paintings not designed to be independent works but rather mass produced for practical use by the people as souvenirs or offerings to the gods, I give the name “folk paintings”. Examples include “Ōtsu-e” and “votive plaques”; “gouache paintings” are also good examples of folk paintings. These paintings are “rustic” in style because they originate amongst the people. They were produced in large quantities for ordinary folk by anonymous craftsmen.

単独に一枚々々絵画として出来たものではなく、民間で土産ものとか、奉納品とか実際につかう為、沢山製産された画を、私は「民画」と名づける。 例へば「大津絵」とか「絵馬」とかの類であつて、「泥絵」も民画のよき一例になる。民間のもの故、云はゞ「下手」な画である。 一般民衆の為に、無名の画工が沢山画いた絵である。

  • 19 Remember that the first historical and anthropological studies of votive plaques were only conducte (...)
  • 20 Cf. Yanagi Sōetsu, “Nihon mingei-hin tenrankai mokuroku” 日本民藝品展覧會目録 (Catalogue for the Japan Folk C (...)

16The essence of Yanagi’s views on folk painting is already visible in this text. He would continue to develop them from the end of the 1920s through to the 1930s, devoting most of his research to the three Edo-period genres mentioned above: folk paintings from Ōtsu (Ōtsu-e), votive plaques (ema),19 and gouache landscape paintings (doro-e). In 1929 he organised a folk art exhibition in Kyoto, essentially from his own personal collection, uniting these three types of artworks under the term minga.20

  • 21 See the eight criteria set out by Yanagi for the objects held at the Mingeikan, in élisabeth Frolet (...)

17In this way Yanagi was able to include painting in his definition of “folk crafts”, despite the fact that this term applied essentially, and more naturally, to everyday utensils. His criteria remained unchanged; namely that the works should be anonymous, utilitarian in purpose, mass-produced and inexpensive, or be the reflection of a tradition rather than the expression of a creator’s individuality.21 The idea that paintings could have anything other than an aesthetic “function” and be “non-individual” may seem incompatible with the modern conception of this art form, and yet these two principles would become the crux around which Yanagi developed his theory.

18Yanagi initially focused on Ōtsu-e, an unusual genre from the Edo period whose history was still largely unknown at the beginning of the twentieth century. These paintings take their name from the town of Ōtsu, the final staging-post before Kyoto on the Tōkaidō road, where they were produced from the beginning of the seventeenth century by humble craftsmen for sale to passing travellers and pilgrims. Crudely made and with a rudimentary composition, they initially featured Buddhist subjects before expanding their repertoire to depict popular deities, historical figures and animals. Although they were influenced in part by other genres, such as ukiyo-e, Ōtsu-e have a unique imagery with a clearly satirical bent. Their emblematic motif is the “goblin” (oni ), who is depicted in various comical scenes: reciting sutra, taking a bath or even playing a shamisen.

  • 22 The book was published as the second volume in a collection devoted to folk craft (“Mingei sōsho”). (...)
  • 23 The first art historian to seriously study the subject was Taki Seiichi 瀧精(1873-1945), professor (...)

19Taking advantage of having moved to Kyoto in 1924 to teach at Dōshisha University, Yanagi set about writing a major book on the subject, Shoki Ōtsu-e 初期大津繪 (The Beginnings of Ōtsu-e). It was published in April 1929 in a collection launched by the Japan Folk Crafts Museum, which was under development at the time.22 A kind of “imaginary museum” of folk painting, this publication remains a seminal work that is essential reading for anyone studying the genre and wanting to understand its themes. More than anything, it shed light on an entire category of popular pictorial art from the Edo period at a time when these pictures were of little interest to academics.23

Front cover of Yanagi Sōetsu’s book Shoki Ōtsu-e (The Beginnings of Ōtsu-e), 1929

Front cover of Yanagi Sōetsu’s book Shoki Ōtsu-e (The Beginnings of Ōtsu-e), 1929
  • 24 Morii Toshiki 森井利喜, Ōtsu-e senshū 大津選集, Ōtsu, Ōtsu-e Kai, April 1926. For more information on this (...)

20A first initiative was launched in 1926 with the holding of an Ōtsu-e exhibition at Ōtsu itself and the publishing of an extensive catalogue with photos of more than 140 exhibits24. In the catalogue’s preface, the painter Yamamura Kōka 山村耕花 (1886-1942) argued passionately for the recognition of these paintings ignored by art history, considering their principal virtues to be their modesty and humble nature:

Ōtsu-e” do not have the aristocratic appearance that characterises ukiyo-e from the same period. They are made by and for the people. It is in their popular nature that their virtue resides. “Ōtsu-e” do not possess the pride common to every artist from every period, which compels them to create for posterity. The absence of this desire to please is commendable. “Ōtsu-e” do not seek to draw attention to themselves and this is something no great artist could ever surpass. This lack of ostentation is pleasing.

『大津絵』には、当時の浮世絵にはまだ遣つてゐたところの、貴族臭がない。完全に庶民のものになりきつてゐる。其民衆的なところがいヽ。『大津絵』には、如何なる時代の藝術家も必ず意識するところの、自己の芸術を後世に向ふ自負がない。其匠気のないところがいヽ。『大津絵』には、如何なる大藝術家も遂に超越することの出来ない、これ見よといふ意識がない。 其衒気のないところがいヽ。

21Yanagi loaned the exhibition a dozen or so works taken from his own burgeoning collection, but he was critical about the disparate nature of the paintings finally selected, not to mention their lack of historical context.

Monkey carrying a Bell and a Lantern, Ōtsu-e from the Yanagi Collection, presented at the 1926 Ōtsu exhibition

Monkey carrying a Bell and a Lantern, Ōtsu-e from the Yanagi Collection, presented at the 1926 Ōtsu exhibition

Mingeikan, Tokyo. Former Asai Chū Collection

  • 25 Katagiri Shūzō (ed.), Genshoku Ōtsu-e zufu 原色大津絵図譜, Ōtsu, Ōmi Kyōgei Bijutsukan, Dai-honzan Enman-i (...)

22With the help of a young Dōshisha University student named Katagiri Shūzō 片桐修三 who later wrote two major books on the subject25 – he decided to establish a collection of historical documents and went to Ōtsu to conduct fieldwork.

23A major part of Yanagi’s work on Ōtsu-e thus consisted in exploring old written sources (maps, literary works, essays [zuihitsu], etc.) with a view to establishing a chronology and history based on documentary evidence. Yanagi’s aim in carrying out this philological research was to claim a place within art history for the anonymous Ōtsu-e genre, around which numerous legends had been invented from the Edo period onwards, notably by the playwright Chikamatsu. He also hoped to shed light on the origins of Ōtsu-e, which were still largely unknown. As a result, a large portion of his book is devoted to this compilation of written sources. It is accompanied by several particularly enlightening illustrations taken from illustrated Edo-period books, such as the remarkable depiction of a painter’s workshop in Ōtsu, taken from the 1797 Guidebook of Famous Places on the Tōkaidō Road (Tōkaidō meisho zue 東海道名所図会).

Painter’s workshop in Ōtsu, taken from the Guidebook of Famous Places on the Tōkaidō Road (Tōkaidō meisho zue), 1797

Painter’s workshop in Ōtsu, taken from the Guidebook of Famous Places on the Tōkaidō Road (Tōkaidō meisho zue), 1797
  • 26 In Shoki Ōtsu-e Yanagi lists 102 motifs categorised into broad genres: Buddhist images, the Seven L (...)

24Another important part of Yanagi’s research consisted in devising a typology of these paintings; in other words, defining and analysing the evolution of the main “canonical subjects” (gadai 画題). This painstakingly detailed description, based on extensive inspection of the paintings and analysis of written sources (since for certain subjects there were no longer any existing examples), enabled Yanagi to draw up a list of over 100 typical themes.26

  • 27 The Japan Folk Crafts Museum’s Ōtsu-e collection consists of 138 items which were published in Ogyū (...)
  • 28 The Ōtsu City Museum of History also holds over sixty works (some of which were presented in two ex (...)
  • 29 Basing his calculation on an estimated 50 pictures sold daily at the workshops of painters in and a (...)

25This compilation would have been impossible without first gathering together a collection of the paintings themselves. In doing so, Yanagi helped to save Ōtsu-e from oblivion and build a collection of approximately 140 works27 for the Japan Folk Crafts Museum, by far the largest in Japan today.28 Nevertheless, when we consider that some estimates put the number of paintings produced over the 250 years of the Edo period at several million, it is clear that Yanagi’s collection is but a tiny sample, with the majority of paintings having been lost.29

26Finally, Yanagi provided a vital contribution to the study of Ōtsu-e by analysing the change in meaning and role of these paintings throughout the Edo period. He divided Ōtsu-e into four periods, demonstrating that the paintings initially had a religious nature and purpose before developing a satirical strain and then becoming a means of disseminating moral precepts in line with the development, in the second half of the eighteenth century, of a Confucian-inspired movement known as shingaku 心学 (philosophy of heart-mind cultivation), aimed at educating the masses. The final period corresponds to the use of Ōtsu-e as simple talismans and concludes with them going out of production at the end of the nineteenth century following the advent of modern transportation, which relieved Ōtsu of its staging-post status.

  • 30 In Ukiyo-e zakki 浮世襍記 (Notes on Ukiyo-e, 1943) Nakada Katsunosuke 仲田勝之助 argued that the appearance (...)

27Despite an attempt in the 1940s, by the printmaking historian Nakada Katsunosuke, to challenge the anteriority of Buddhist-themed Ōtsu-e over those with secular motifs,30 Yanagi’s four-phase periodisation is still in use today. It enabled the corpus of Ōtsu-e paintings to be organised and their social role revealed. In this respect, Yanagi was instrumental in giving these paintings a new identity and value, despite the fact that since the early nineteenth century they had been considered to have nothing more than a talismanic meaning and their subjects had narrowed to around ten motifs.

  • 31 Ōtsu-e no waka” 大津の和歌 (Poems in Ōtsu-e), Kōgei, no. 2, February 1931, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 13, (...)

28In an effort to understand the satirical meaning of Ōtsu-e and their educational function, Yanagi established a list of the majority of ‘moral poems’ (dōka 道歌) – approximately 140 in total – which featured on paintings produced during the eighteenth century.31

Ōtsu-e of a cat and mouse featuring the moral ‘Not listening to the teachings of the Saints is an act that leads man to his downfall’ (Seijin no oshie o kakazu tsui ni mi o horobosu hito no shiwaza nari keri)

Ōtsu-e of a cat and mouse featuring the moral ‘Not listening to the teachings of the Saints is an act that leads man to his downfall’ (Seijin no oshie o kakazu tsui ni mi o horobosu hito no shiwaza nari keri)

Former Komenami Shōichi Collection, Mingeikan, Tokyo.

29Studying these inscriptions enabled him to interpret the meaning of certain previously obscure images. It further revealed that on some occasions the same motif had been given multiple meanings, thus endowing this imagery with an unexpected complexity.

  • 32 Ōtsu-e no hanashi” 大津の話 (On Ōtsu-e), a radio conference broadcast in Kyoto on 18 January 1929, re (...)
  • 33 For more information on this point, see my analysis of Kafū’s book, Edo geijutsu-ron 江戸藝術論 (Essays (...)

30In conclusion, Yanagi considered that unlike other forms of folk painting from the Edo period, Ōtsu-e were not simply descriptive but rather “expressed the heart” (kokoro no hyōgen) of the common people.32 In this sense, rather than being a “primitive” form of painting, they demonstrated the “wisdom of the people” (minshū no kichi). This led Yanagi to state that “these allegorical and humorous paintings were undoubtedly the only means for the people of this period to criticise society”. This was an often-expressed opinion at the time, particularly by the writer Nagai Kafū 永井荷風, who saw Edo period art, and in particular ukiyo-e, as a means of popular resistance through entertainment.33 For Yanagi, too, the Edo period was characterised by an appropriation of art by the people, a previously unheard of phenomenon.

  • 34 See Nathalie Heinich, Du peintre à l’artiste. Artisans et académiciens à l’âge classique (From Pain (...)
  • 35 Yanagi developed this issue in “Kōgei to bijutsu” 工藝と美術 (Applied Arts and Fine Arts), Mingei, no. 2 (...)

31Finally, beyond his historical examination of Ōtsu-e and the cataloguing of their motifs, Yanagi used this form of folk art to champion a new approach for pictorial art based – as he explained in a chapter from his 1929 book “The Beauty and Nature of Ōtsu-e (Ōtsu-e no bi to sono seishitsu)” on the “repetition” of “given” subjects in order to “produce large quantities of pictures”. These three criteria were in stark contrast to the concept of artistic creation that had prevailed in the West since the appearance, in the eighteenth century, of the artist in the modern sense, founded on individuality, innovation, unique artworks and the idea that art was an individual vocation rather than a professional trade.34 Drawing in particular on the ideas of William Morris and his Arts and Crafts Movement, which sought to promote the value of craftsmanship in Victorian England, Yanagi hoped to transcend the romantic image of the artist for whom the beautiful contrasted with the useful and personal imagination with manual trade.35 In contrast, Yanagi looked to Edo art for examples of genres in which the artist disappeared behind his work, in the spirit of what he referred to, using Buddhist vocabulary, as tariki 他力, the “Other Power”, in other words reliance on the salutary power of Amida Buddha rather than dependence on the “Self Power” (jiriki 自力) through asceticism.

  • 36 Yanagi made the following statement in a lecture given in 1936 at the Peers’ Club in Tokyo: “Ukiyo- (...)

32Henceforth, Yanagi endeavoured to promote his work on folk crafts and painting in Europe and the United States, aiming to foster an alternative view of Japanese art to the one that had prevailed since Japonisme became popular in the late nineteenth century. He regretted the fact that the greatest esteem in these continents was reserved for the ukiyo-e (woodblock print) and its great masters, while Ōtsu-e, which dated from the same period, went unnoticed.36 In April 1929, the same month his book on Ōtsu-e was published, he travelled to Europe, visiting England, France and even Sweden, where he was particularly fascinated by the Nordiska Museum in Stockholm, one of the first museums devoted entirely to folk traditions and founded in 1873. This example encouraged him to see through his own campaign to establish a museum.

  • 37 For further information on Yanagi’s two trips to the United States (in 1929-1930 and 1952-1953), se (...)
  • 38 Based on a letter addressed to Bernard Leach on 15 September 1929, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 21-1, 198 (...)
  • 39 This research, with which Yanagi assisted and which was the first detailed presentation of the hist (...)
  • 40 Langdon Warner, The Craft of the Japanese Sculptor, New York, MacFarlane, 1936, pp. 53-54. On the s (...)
  • 41 Langdon Warner, The Enduring Art of Japan, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1952, the chapter (...)

33Yanagi next travelled to the United States where he had been invited to teach Japanese art history at Harvard University.37 He gave a series of lectures on “Mahayana Buddhist ideals in art”, the “criteria for Beauty in Japan, as seen in the tea ceremony”,38 and the “beauty of folk crafts”. He also assisted Professor Langdon Warner (1881-1955), Curator of Oriental Art at Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum in Cambridge (Mass.), with his work on Japanese Buddhist sculpture, and his wife, Lorraine d’Orémieulx Warner, with her research on Korean pottery.39 Warner had longstanding ties with Japan, having studied the history of sculpture there in 1907-1908 under the guidance of Okakura Tenshin. His meeting with Yanagi during a study trip to Korea in 1928 led him to extend his research on Japanese art to include its folk traditions. This is attested by several of his books, in which he enthuses over the works of the “peasant monk” Mokujiki40 or Ōtsu-e, in the face of which “the foreigner is not blinded by the flash of a master’s signed name or by any dexterity”.41

  • 42 Eastern Art, College Art Association, Philadelphia, vol. II, 1930, pp. 5-36.
  • 43 Cf. “Japanese Peasant Painting”, Fogg Art Museum. Harvard University. Notes, vol. II, no. 5, June 1 (...)

34During his stay, Yanagi strove to introduce the American public to what was at the time the unknown art of Ōtsu-e. He began by giving a lecture on the subject in December 1929. Then with Warner’s help he published an extended article on the subject in the journal Eastern Art. Based on his recent book, the article was richly illustrated with over forty plates and constituted the first, and for a long time only, detailed presentation of the genre in the West.42 In April-May 1930 Yanagi also organised an exhibition of some fifty Ōtsu-e paintings at the Fogg Art Museum, notably using works from his own private collection.43

Monkey Immobilising Catfish with Gourde, Ōtsu-e from the Yanagi Collection, presented at the ‘Japanese Peasant Painting’ exhibition at the Fogg Museum, 1930

Monkey Immobilising Catfish with Gourde, Ōtsu-e from the Yanagi Collection, presented at the ‘Japanese Peasant Painting’ exhibition at the Fogg Museum, 1930

Mingeikan, Tokyo

35In the introduction to his article, entitled “The Peasant Paintings of Ōtsu, Japan”, Yanagi lay the foundations of a theoretical reflection on the distinctive characteristics of this genre and the change in judging criteria that was required in order to appreciate it. His views can be summed up by the pairs of antithetical terms he employed to contrast folk art with the painting of the fine arts: folk art / fine art; artisan / artist; unsigned / individuality; common thing / self-expression; spontaneous picture / aesthetic ideas; picture to be used / picture to be exhibited; sweat / caprice. Yanagi went on to explain that should Western readers immersed in an “individualistic era” find this definition troubling, this was due to the change in modern Western attitudes to art since the Renaissance:

[…] it seems to me that, since the time of the Renaissance in the West, people have lost something of the right notion of beauty that is ordinary and have stopped making common things beautifully.

36Here Yanagi can be seen to share with Ruskin and William Morris – who both influenced his perspective – the idealised view of the Middle Ages as a period in which craft wares were synonymous with beauty.

37Yanagi would continue to develop his theory on folk painting, placing an ever greater emphasis on his plea for a return to the “medieval” conception of art, via a series of texts published throughout the 1930s, in particular on another genre of folk painting from the Edo period, doro-e.

The gouache landscapes of the late Edo period: a plea for a pictorial revolution

  • 44 Yanagi Sōetsu, “Sashi-e kaisetsu. Minga ni tsuite” 解説  民に就て (Commentary on the Illustrations. O (...)

38In 1931 Yanagi used the journal Kōgei 工藝 (Crafts), which he had recently created as a platform for the ideas and collections of his movement’s supporters, to publish a commentary on a series of six paintings he had collected along with his friends, including the stencil dye artist Serizawa Keisuke 芹沢銈介. Although the paintings belonged to different genres (Ōtsu-e, votive plaques, doro-e), they all corresponded to Yanagi’s definition of “folk painting”.44 The text begins with a plea for their recognition:

We are fascinated by the beauty of folk paintings. By folk painting we refer to anonymous paintings originating amongst common people. This genre has tended to be looked down upon. With our modern era placing originality before all else, it is only natural for such commonplace paintings to have been relegated to the lowest position and their true value ignored. These paintings have only served to satisfy the tastes of dilettantes, and many painters these days regard them with contempt. However, I believe that in the future they will be seen in a new light and that a day will come when their value is quite naturally recognised.

吾々は民画の美にいたく心を引かれてゐる。民画と云ふのは民衆の間から生れる無銘の絵画を云ふのである。こう云ふ種類の絵は普通馬鹿にされてゐたものである。何も個性々々の近代の事であるから、そう云ふ平凡な絵が下積にされて、価値が認められなかつたのも無理はない。只好事家の趣味性に満足を与へたゞけで、今でも多くの画家はそう云ふものを軽蔑してゐる。併しそれ等のものは今後見直されて、その価値が素直に認められる時が来ると思へる。

39Yanagi went on to explain that in contrast to the work of famous artists with their overly distinctive style and often inaccessible price, these discreet paintings were in harmony with furniture and enhanced everyday life. He discovered a special beauty in them that resided primarily in their anonymity, in contrast to the art world, in which this “lack of signature” (mumei 無銘) generally gave rise to a condescending attitude.

40Finally, Yanagi briefly defined the main characteristics of folk paintings: namely, their inexpensiveness, plurality, ordinariness, rapid production, functional nature, lack of artistic pretension and the fact that they were bought by common folk. Yet according to art history criteria, such characteristics rendered folk paintings worthless. Despite this, Yanagi was convinced there would be a change in the criteria used to judge art, believing that in the future new “criteria of beauty” would lead folk paintings to gain recognition.

  • 45 Yanagi Sōetsu, “Kaiga-ron” 繪畫 (Essay on Painting), Kōgei, no. 37, January 1934, reprinted in YSZ, (...)

41In 1934 Yanagi dedicated another much longer text to the subject of doro-e, giving it the more general title of “Essay on Painting” (Kaiga-ron).45 The introduction is particularly enlightening with regards the motives that underpin Yanagi’s reflection, namely the promotion of a pictorial art that transcends individual creation:

Some will consider it inappropriate to discuss the theory of painting in a journal dedicated to the applied arts; however, I personally believe that, on the contrary, the time has come for painting to be considered from the same angle as crafts. Perhaps professing such a view continues to be like preaching in the wilderness, but I believe that our era is preparing to accept such a view. There is nothing unusual about my way of thinking, but since it appears that nobody has yet approached this issue in a clear and precise manner from the perspective of Beauty, I want to define the problem concisely in order to explain the aesthetic we hope to establish in the future.

Using the example of doro-e, I will examine the nature and beauty of folk paintings born from the brushes of tradespeople, all the while encouraging an overhaul of the traditional view of painting as individual creation and explaining the need to promote a pictorial beauty that is in harmony with everyday life. In the future painting will go from a pure art to an applied art and will no longer be appreciated for its artistic value but for its artisanal dimension.

工藝の雑誌で絵画論を説くのは似合はぬと思はれるかも知れぬが、今後絵画は寧ろ工藝の立場から論じらるべきだと云ふのが私の宿論である。まだ今の所では野に叫ぶ者の声に過ぎぬかも知れぬが、時代はもうそれを受け容れる準備を始め出した様にも思ふ。 論旨は寧ろ平凡なのであるが、 美の方面からまだ明確に此事を語つた人が無いと思ふので、将来建てらるべき美学の為に簡明に記しておきたい。

 泥絵を例として、画工の筆に成る工藝的な絵画の性質とその美を論じ、従来の個人的絵画観の反省を求めて、生活と交わる絵画美の必要を説く。将来の絵画の方向は純正より応用へと転じ、絵画が美術的なるが故にではなく工藝的なるが故に評価されるであろう。

  • 46 Yanagi Sōetsu, “Kōgei-teki kaiga” 工藝的繪畫 (Folk Painting), Kōgei, no. 73, February 1937, reprinted in (...)

42Here Yanagi was comparing painting in the modern sense, seen as individual creation (kojin-teki kaiga), with doro-e art, characterised by its artisanal dimension, in the sense that it was not the fruit of renowned artists but rather “artisan-painters” (gakō), or anonymous tradespeople. This notion of “folk painting” (kōgei-teki kaiga) would become a central theme for Yanagi and he returned to it in a long article written in 1937.46

  • 47 Yanagi Sōetsu, “Bijutsu to kōgei” 美術と工藝 (Fine Arts and Applied Arts), Ōsaka Mainichi Shinbun, 10-12 (...)

43This comparison reveals a further issue: that of the artistic hierarchy created by art institutions at the beginning of the Meiji era in response to Japan’s encounter with Western art categories during its participation in international fairs. The appearance of the categories bijutsu (fine arts) and kōgei (“industrial arts” or “applied arts”) – neologisms coined in the 1870s – and the emergence of the artist-painter as individual creator led pre-modern forms of pictorial art to be ignored, as they did not fit into the Western definition of art but rather fell into the domain of popular imagery. What Yanagi was advocating here was thus a return to Japan’s old conception of art in which, in his idealised view, the distinction between painting and applied art did not exist, or at least was less marked. In fact, on several occasions at the beginning of the 1930s Yanagi discussed the social and aesthetic consequences of the formation of compartmentalised and hierarchical categories of art during the modern era.47

  • 48 Yanagi explained this decision in “Nihon mingeikan annai” 日本民藝館案内 (Presentation of the Japan Folk C (...)

44In this respect, the transformation of the Nihon Mingei Bijutsukan (Japan Folk Art Museum) into the Nihon Mingeikan (Japan Folk Crafts Museum), between the planning stage in 1926 and its eventual opening in Tokyo in 1936, reflected a conscious decision to abandon the term bijutsukan (fine arts museum), which was a loaded term poorly suited to Yanagi’s ideology.48

45It should further be noted that from the outset Yanagi presented his essay not only as a re-appraisal of a previously neglected, indeed disparaged, pictorial art, he also asserted its aim of fostering a new aesthetic, one of applied art and of art linked to everyday life, with which he hoped to attract the artists of his time. Ultimately, Yanagi used doro-e as a pretext, an example to suggest a new approach to painting. He invited readers who did not care for this example to replace it with Chinese painted lacquerware from the Han Dynasty or the illuminated manuscripts of the Western Middle Ages.

  • 49 On this point, see Yoshida Shōgorō 吉田小五郎, “Doro-e no hanashi” の話 (On Gouache Paintings), Kōgei, n (...)
  • 50 Although the dating of doro-e remains the subject of debate, their production presumably dates back (...)

46But what exactly are doro-e, literally “mud paintings”? The term refers to an inexpensive type of painting that uses mineral pigments suspended in water, comparable to gouache and featuring the same opaque texture. However, doro-e cannot be reduced to this strictly technical definition based on their medium. The term doro-e, which was seemingly first used in the 1910s,49 instead refers to a rather ill-defined genre characterised by its subject matter and naïve style. These paintings can be seen as a continuation of the landscape perspective views (known as megane-e or pictures for optical viewing devices”) printed in Japan from the middle of the eighteenth century under the influence of optical prints imported from Europe. The two genres were occasionally confused, for both incorporated formal elements borrowed from Western painting, such as their linear perspective. Nonetheless, as Yanagi pointed out, doro-e emerged after megane-e, as they were chiefly produced at the end of the Edo period during the 1850s and 1860s.50 Just like Ōtsu-e they were intended for sale as souvenirs to travellers and generally represented famous places in the city of Edo, in particular feudal lords’ residences and the shōgun’s castle.

Kinokuni Slope and the Edo Residence of the Feudal Lord of Kii. Doro-e from the Yanagi Collection, presented in the journal Kōgei in 1937

Kinokuni Slope and the Edo Residence of the Feudal Lord of Kii. Doro-e from the Yanagi Collection, presented in the journal Kōgei in 1937

Mingeikan, Tokyo

  • 51 See the following publications on doro-e: Edo no doro-e ten. Watanabe Shin.ichirō-shi korekushon 江戸 (...)

47However, other paintings depicted the Tōkaidō road, Kyoto and Osaka, for doro-e were essentially produced in the Kamigata region and even, to a lesser extent, in Nagasaki.51

View of Dejima and Nagasaki Bay, doro-e from the Yanagi Collection, presented in the journal Kōgei in 1937

View of Dejima and Nagasaki Bay, doro-e from the Yanagi Collection, presented in the journal Kōgei in 1937

Mingeikan, Tokyo

48Just like Ōtsu-e they were unsigned and did not seek to showcase individual expression. They were above all the work of craftsmen who sought to make a living rather than champion a style. Yanagi believed these factors to explain the lack of interest shown by art historians.

49Yet Yanagi claimed to undergo a curious experience in the face of such paintings. He could not help seeing a kind of beauty in these primitive, unsigned pictures that transported him to a strange world in which he himself became a “creator”. For these paintings, which he never tired of contemplating, possessed the ability to take his imagination on a journey to an almost dreamlike place. This experience is even more curious when we consider that doro-e were devoid of the qualities generally attributed to pictorial art. And yet they fascinated Yanagi, and this irresistible attraction was felt even by those who, assigning no value to them, would have happily got rid of them.

50This experience led Yanagi to conclude that the path trodden by renowned artists was not the only way to produce a quality painting. He went even further, declaring that doro-e possessed a unique beauty that was only possible at the hands of anonymous craftsmen producing this type of rudimentary painting. The lack of technical sophistication and the apparent ordinariness of these paintings did not prevent them from delivering an aesthetic shock, quite the contrary. Yanagi therefore believed that painting should no longer be the exclusive domain of geniuses and famous artists; the artworks of ordinary folk also deserved to be celebrated; beauty could go hand in hand with a kind of ordinariness; painting was not incompatible with craftsmanship.

51The principle characteristic of doro-e is that they are “non-individual” productions, in the sense that they share the same formal conventions whatever the subject, and were created according to the principle of division of labour rather than by one single artist. This is also one of the main causes of the contempt they were shown. Yanagi thus believed in the need to do away with the preconceived notion that a non-individual artwork not bearing the hallmark of a clearly identifiable creator was necessarily devoid of beauty.

52He appealed to the painters and critics of his time, asking them why they only revered individual works. Might another place not exist for painting, one free from the primacy of the individual? For while beauty could not entirely reject the individual, it could not be limited to it either. Yanagi qualified his ideas on this point, explaining that the art he desired should be “non-individualistic” (hi-kojin 非個人), but not “devoid of individuality » (mu-kojin 無個人). He spoke of the possibility of a pictorial art that was the fruit of a collaborative effort through a division of labour, and advocated “cooperation » (kyōryoku 協力) in the creative act.

  • 52 Cf. Edo geijutsu-ron 江戸藝術論, in Christophe Marquet, op. cit., pp. 319-320.

53For Yanagi, historians bore heavy responsibility for the narrow conception of painting that prevailed at the time. The history of painting, born of a modern era founded on the cult of the individual, often consisted of a commentary on artworks according to the artist’s name, amounting to a series of biographies of celebrated artistic geniuses. Art historians chiefly aimed to “ascribe” works to a particular artist and the same applied for the history of ukiyo-e. However, Yanagi argued that ukiyo-e could not be reduced to a simple issue of authorship, for in the majority of cases the beauty of the finished product – in other words, the print – exceeded the original signed drawing. It was thus the work of anonymous craftsmen, woodblock cutters and printers (and indeed paper and colour manufacturers) that should be taken into consideration. For Yanagi, the ukiyo-e genre was a perfect example of a collaborative art resulting from the collective efforts of various guilds. Despite this, historians persisted in retaining only the names of the artists” who had produced the original drawings on which the prints were based. Here Yanagi’s views resemble those of Nagai Kafū, who also maintained that in ukiyo-e, the specific qualities of the print made it superior to the original picture.52

  • 53 See the book that Kishida Ryūsei 岸田劉生 devoted to this subject in 1926: Shoki nikuhitsu ukiyo-e 初期肉筆 (...)

54On the other hand, the beauty of ukiyo-e images from the primitive period – which had also enthralled artists like Kishida Ryūsei (1891-1929) –53 stemmed from the fact that they reflected a tradition, an artistic movement, rather than an individual artist’s style. From this point of view these pictures – just like the primitive prints of the Torii school at the beginning of the eighteenth century – were little influenced by individual genius. Instead they possessed a “formal beauty” (yōshiki no bi 様式の美) based on the reproduction of compositions and characteristics inherited from a tradition.

55Whereas the absolute value of individual paintings is generally determined by their uniqueness, ukiyo-e made multiplicity – and consequently the linking of beauty with quantity – possible. Yanagi saw this multiplicity as being socially important, for it enabled the artworks to be inexpensive. Yanagi pointed out the use of ukiyo-e in advertising and illustration, fields seen as secondary from the standpoint of a strictly individual art.

  • 54 Walter Benjamin, L'Œuvre d'art à l'époque de sa reproductibilité technique (published in English as (...)

56In this respect the European Middle Ages were presented as an ideal period in which paintings – whether frescos or book illustrations – were the collective work of various craftspeople, before individualism was introduced by the Renaissance. Yanagi desired a return to this state of affairs in which painting was characterised as having a “public” and “multiple” dimension. To this end, arts based on reproduction” (tensha 転写) offered a promising new approach. Engraving in particular (wood engraving, etching, lithography) possessed this non-individual, social and economic dimension. Reproduction in the form of facsimiles – which, far from depreciating the work of art, were “capable of creating a beauty that exceeded the original” –, as well as mural paintings, would increase society’s awareness of art. Yanagi thus reached the opposite conclusion to Walter Benjamin, who during the same period, in his book The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, protested against the destruction of the uniqueness, aura and ritual function of artworks by mechanical mass reproduction54.

57Above all, Yanagi hoped to restore the link between the Beautiful and the useful, notions which had been considered incompatible, indeed antithetical, since the connection between painting and society had been shattered during the modern era. In contrast to the nineteenth-century notion of art for art’s sake, in which Benjamin saw a negative theology” depriving art of any social function, Yanagi believed that painting should be functional”, in the sense that it should be linked to daily life. However, in modern society this functionality often gave rise to ugliness, which in Yanagi’s eyes had been not the case in previous eras.

58Yanagi contrasted “sublime beauty” (sūkō-bi 崇高美) – the legacy of an era characterised by hero-worship – with the “simple, plain beauty” (heiisa no bi 平易さの美) lacking in modern paintings. The problem was that modern-day man, conditioned to appreciate only the extraordinary, had difficulty perceiving the beauty of ordinary objects. And yet doro-e, with their ordinary, commonplace beauty, provided a solution, revealing a new direction.

59Finally, Yanagi hoped to restore the decorative function of painting through a return to the “decorative motifs” (moyō 模様) and stylisation that characterised doro-e, paintings he classified as “beyond description”. The advantage being that motifs are multiple and reproducible, whereas as a painting is unique.

60In conclusion, Yanagi went much further in his 1934 “Essay on Painting” than in his study of Ōtsu-e, which remained primarily historical, by using doro-e to propose a model for contemporary artistic creation. He protested against the same “individual” art he had championed during his youth, suggesting instead a “collaborative” art with a “social” and “reproducible” dimension. Nonetheless, there is no denying that unlike other art forms such as ceramics, in which the mingei aesthetic found a broad echo, Yanagi’s ideas on painting did not give rise to the “revolution in the concept of painting”, the reversal in values he so desired.

In conclusion

  • 55 Yanagi Sōetsu, Zakki no bi, 1927, reprinted in Mingei yonjū-nen, Tokyo, Iwanami Shoten, Iwanami Bun (...)
  • 56 See, for example, the work of Kishi Fumikazu 岸文和 on the pictorial act”, Kaiga kōi-ron. Ukiyo-e no (...)

61In the field of painting Yanagi was solely interested in specific genres from the Edo period, for in his eyes this period represented a unique moment in Japanese history when “culture belonged to the people”.55 He sought to provide a fresh perspective on pictorial art from this period, which historians generally broached through artists’ biographies and the issue of individual creation. One example of this is Fujioka Sakutarō’s 藤岡作太郎 1903 publication Kinsei kaiga-shi 近世絵画史 (History of Early-Modern Painting), the first to be published on the subject in Japan. For Yanagi, just as history could not simply be a series of heroes’ biographies without an analysis of the life of the people, art history could not be reduced to a sequence of artistic geniuses. In this respect Yanagi’s approach provided an alternative to a methodology inspired by Western historiography, which was traditionally based on the artists themselves and on an evolutionary approach to styles. It foreshadowed the recent research on Edo art which takes into account “production” methods and the “purpose” of painting and the printed image.56

  • 57 Cho Cha-yong, Yi-Dynasty Painting and the Concept of Folk Art”, in Cho Cha-yong, Lee U-fan, Tradit (...)

62Nonetheless, Yanagi’s restrictive definition of “folk painting”, which excludes ukiyo-e for example, is not without posing a certain number of problems and in fact goes some way to explaining his project’s relative lack of success. Cho Cha-yong raised this issue regarding Korean painting in particular, pointing out that it appeared difficult to bring about such a change in perspective while restricting the term “folk painting” to the naïve artwork of craftspeople who lacked a command of basic artistic techniques.57

63Despite Yanagi’s repeated efforts to promote a new form of “collaborative” painting inspired by the artisanal spirit of rustic Edo-period images, folk painting was undoubtedly the least successful chapter in the Mingei movement. Notable exceptions include some remarkable experiments, such as the engravings of Munakata Shikō 棟方志功, crafted in the style of Buddhist prints, or the textile creations of Serizawa Keisuke, influenced by Korean paintings composed of stylised Chinese characters and by traditional stencil-dyed fabrics from Okinawa (bingata 紅型).

  • 58 Yanagita Kunio, Yanagi Sōetsu, Shikiba Ryūzaburō 式場隆三郎, Higa Shunchō 比嘉春潮, Mingeigaku to minzokuga (...)
  • 59 Yanagi Sōetsu, Mingeigaku to minzokugaku” 民藝學と民俗學 (Folk Craft Studies and Folk Studies), Kōgei, no (...)

64Although his call for a new form of painting went largely unheeded, Yanagi’s historic research remains an essential contribution to our understanding of the art and culture of the Edo period. In this respect one might speculate as to the links between Yanagi’s views and those of certain folklorists, notably Yanagita Kunio 柳田國男 (1875-1962), the founding father of Japanese folk studies. Yanagi clarified this issue himself, first during an interview with the famous folklorist and ethnologist in 1940,58 then again in a lecture given the following year at the anthropology department of Tokyo Imperial University.59

  • 60 Yanagi also mentions this difference in the approach to votive plaques in Nihon mingeikan” 日本民藝館 ( (...)

65What emerges is that while both disciplines share certain characteristics, notably their interest in the “everyday life of the people” and “regional cultures”, they take a fundamentally “different stance”. Folk studies (minzokugaku), whose purpose Yanagita described as the precise knowledge of ancient history through the objective study of customs, everyday objects and popular traditions, are an “empirical” (keikengaku) or “descriptive” (kijutsugaku) science. In contrast, the study of folk crafts (mingeigaku), which looks towards the future, resembles a “normative” science (kihangaku) since it aims to define an aesthetic based on value judgements. Consequently, explained Yanagi, even when the two disciplines study the same object, for example figurative votive plaques (ema), their methods and objectives differ fundamentally, since folk studies seek to obtain a representative sample with a view to studying popular beliefs, regional customs and legends, while folk craft studies make aesthetic choices and establish a hierarchy according to the criteria of beauty. One analyses content and what the object tells us about a specific practice, or even cultural identity; the other studies the object primarily for its aesthetic value.60

  • 61 In a letter to Jean Buhot on the subject of Ōtsu-e, dated 25 December 1938, Leroi-Gourhan stated: (...)
  • 62 This book, which aimed to study various genres of folk painting and crafts (votive plaques, toys, Ō (...)
  • 63 André Leroi-Gourhan, Documents pour l’art comparé de l’Eurasie septentrionale (Documents for the Co (...)
  • 64 In a letter to Buhot (op. cit, Pages oubliées sur le Japon, p. 105) Leroi-Gourhan quotes Yanagi’s b (...)
  • 65 Ibid., p. 285.
  • 66 Yanagi Sōetsu, Nihon mingei bijutsukan setsuritsu shuisho” 日本民藝美術館設立趣意書 (Manifesto for the Creatio (...)
  • 67 During a lecture given at the French Institute of Anthropology in 1940 after returning from Japan, (...)
  • 68 Letter to Jean Buhot, 20 May 1938, ibid., p. 40.

66Another enlightening comparison regarding this difference in approach, as far as the issue of folk painting is concerned, is the ethnographical research conducted by André Leroi-Gourhan (1911-1986) in Japan in the 1930s, which led him to take an interest in the “minor creations” (productions minimes) of folk crafts, in particular votive plaques and Ōtsu-e. Leroi-Gourhan collected a small sample of such objects61 for the Trocadéro Museum of Ethnography (Musée d’ethnographie). This provided him with the material to write a book on popular forms of religious art in Japan (Formes populaires de l’art religieux au Japon)62 at a time when he sought to “assess how current or recent folk art can contribute to the art history of the great nations”.63 At first glance Leroi-Gourhan’s angle of attack appears to resemble that of Yanagi - whose museum and book on Ōtsu-e he discovered while in Japan –64, such as when he writes in the introduction to his book: “The history of painting consists of the names of great men. To escape this we must begin with an art that has no names; temporarily leave behind the masterpieces with their technical feats and challenges to brush and paper; take anonymous, interchangeable works, objects that are within the capabilities of thousands of humble artists.65” Yanagi’s work also presented similarities with Leroi-Gourhan’s when he established a typology based chiefly on the themes and meanings of paintings. Their motives were nonetheless markedly different, for Yanagi did not seek to study what Leroi-Gourhan referred to as the “ethnic value” of these images, nor to understand the historical evolution of folk painting themes in order to develop a general theory of representation. In line with his 1926 museum-based plan to “enter the beauty of [folk crafts] into the history books” by selecting the most striking works according to aesthetic criteria,66 he intended to elevate folk painting to the rank of art using a newly broadened definition. Above all, he was a campaigner for the folk craft cause seeking to promote a different form of beauty and suggest models through which to revive contemporary creation. For his part, although he admired the work of certain Mingei movement artists like the potter Kawai Kanjirō 河井寛次郎, who served as his guide in this field,67 Leroi-Gourhan did not seem to share Yanagi’s enthusiasm for a neo-folk art, writing from Kyoto in 1938: “Things are at such a point that artists are currently creating a movement of snobbism towards peasant art. Which means that peasant art is truly dead”.68 Yanagi’s approach to objects remained above all sensitive and intuitive, that of an aesthete, an enthusiast enamoured with collecting. It is this very perspective that enabled folk paintings to escape their status as simple ethnographic or ethno-religious documents by revealing their aesthetic qualities.

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Notes

1 Of the 129 items only two were graphic works and these were modern creations: a woodblock print by Munakata Shikō from the Kannon Sutra series (1938) and a stencil-dyed textile by Serizawa Keisuke depicting Ryūkyū Scenes (1939).

2 At the beginning of the 1910s – despite being barely in his twenties  Yanagi wrote a series of articles on artists like Beardsley (1910), Rodin (1910 and 1912), Renoir (1911), Van Gogh (1912) and Matisse (1913), which appeared in early issues of the journal Shirakaba. He examined the characteristics shared by Post-Impressionist artists in a well-known essay entitled Kakumei no gaka” 革命の (Painters of the Revolution), Shirakaba, January 1912, reprinted in Yanagi Sōetsu Zenshū 柳宗悦全集 (hereafter YSZ), vol. 1, Tokyo, Chikuma Shobō, 1981, pp. 543-567. For more on this point see Michael Lucken’s article in this volume.

3 Cf. Yanagi Sōetsu, Chōsen minzoku bijutsu tenrankai ni tsuite” 朝鮮民族美術展覧會に就て (On the Korean Folk Art Exhibition), Shirakaba, no. 21, May 1921 and Yomiuri Shinbun, 9-10 May 1921, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 6, 1981, pp. 84-88. The exhibition of just under 200 items was held at the Ruissō Gallery 流逸荘 in the Ogawa-chō neighbourhood of Kanda, one of the first galleries of its kind in Japan. Opened in 1914, it hosted a number of events by Shirakaba-group artists.

4 「西洋の藝術に親んだ吾々は、いつか自らの故郷である東洋の藝術を省みる時が来るであらう」, ibid., p. 85.

5 Cf. Yanagi Sōetsu, ‘“Chōsen minzoku bijutsukan’ no setsuritsu ni tsuite” 「朝鮮民族美術館」の設立に就て (On the Creation of a Korean Folk Crafts Museum), Shirakaba, January 1921 (later published in English in The Japan Advertiser, 23 January), reprinted in YSZ, vol. 6, 1981, pp. 79-83.

6 Cf. Yanagi Sōetsu, Ushinawaren to suru ichi Chōsen kenchiku no tame ni” 失なわれんとする一朝鮮建築のために (In Defence of an Endangered Piece of Korean Architecture), Kaizō, September 1922, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 6, 1981, pp. 145-154. In her work on Yanagi, élisabeth Frolet, quoting Takasaki Sōji 高崎宗司 (Chōsen no tsuchi to natta nihonjin. Asakawa Takumi no shōgai 朝鮮の土となった日本人  浅川巧の生涯, 1982), puts Yanagi’s activities into perspective by pointing out that the museum’s opening was made possible “thanks to the decision of the governor-general [of Korea] to conceal his oppression of the country through ‘cultural politics (bunka seiji)”’. Cf. Yanagi Sōetsu ou les éléments d’une renaissance artistique au Japon (Yanagi Sōetsu: Elements of an Artistic Revival in Japan), Paris, Publications de la Sorbonne, 1986, p. 66.

7 Yanagi Sōetsu, “Chōsen-ga o nagamete” 朝鮮を眺めて (Contemplation of a Korean Painting), Mingei, no. 59, November 1957; “Fushigi-na chōsen minga” 不思議な朝鮮民 (The Wonderful Folk Paintings of Korea); “Chōsen no minga” 朝鮮の民 (Korean Folk Paintings), Mingei, no. 80, August 1959, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 6, 1981, pp. 496-499, pp. 500-512, pp. 513-518. On Yanagi and Korean paintings, see Ogyū Shinzō 尾久彰三, “Yanagi Muneyoshi ga hakken shita minshū-teki kaiga no ‘!”’ 柳宗悦が発見した民衆的絵画の「!, Bessatsu Taiyō: Kankoku, Chōsen no kaiga 別冊太陽 — 韓国・朝鮮の絵画, Tokyo, Heibonsha, November 2008, pp. 112-113.

8 For further information on this genre, see Yeolsu Yoon, Folk Painting. Handbook of Korean Art vol 4, London, Laurence King Publishing, 2003, pp. 194-211; catalogue for the exhibition Nostalgies coréennes. Collection Lee U-fan. Peintures et paravents du xviie au xixsiècle (Korean Melancholy. The Lee U-fan Collection. Paintings and Folding Screens from the 17th to the 19th Century), Paris, Musée national des arts asiatiques - Guimet, Réunion des musées nationaux, 2001, pp. 146-162.

9 Yanagi Sōetsu, “Fushigi-na chōsen minga”, op. cit., YSZ, vol. 6, 1981, p. 510.

10 Yanagi Sōetsu, “Chōsen no minga”, op. cit., YSZ, vol. 6, 1981, p. 515.

11 Cho Cha-yong (sometimes transcribed as Zo Zayong), a Harvard-trained Korean architect, was among the first to establish a collection of minhwa in the 1960s (collection held at the Emileh Museum, which he founded in Seoul in 1967), to organise exhibitions and publish articles on the subject. See, among others, Zozayong, Guardians of Happiness. Shamanistic Tradition in Korean Folk Painting, Seoul, Emileh Museum, 1982; Cho Cha-yong 趙子庸, Kim Ch’ŏl-sun 金哲淳, Chosŏn sidae minhwa 朝鮮時代民畫, Seoul, Yegyŏng Sanŏpsa, 1989; Cho Cha-yong, Lee U-fan, Traditional Korean Painting. A Lost Art Rediscovered, Tokyo, Kodansha International, 1990.

12 Cf. Hong Sŏn-pyo 洪善杓, “Chōsen minga no atarashii rikai” 朝鮮民画の新しい理解, Bessatsu Taiyō. Kankoku, Chōsen no kaiga, Tokyo, Heibonsha, November 2008, pp. 108-110.

13 Catalogue for the exhibition Pan’gapta! uri minhwa / Ureshii! Chōsen minga / Happy! Joseon Folk Painting, Seoul, Sŏul yŏksa pangmulgwan, 2005. On the subject of Yanagi’s contribution, see Ogyū Shinzō 尾久彰三, ‘“Ureshii! Chōsen minga” ten ni yosete’ 「うれしい! 朝鮮民画」展に寄せて, pp. 246-251.

14 On the evolution of research on Korean folk painting since Yanagi, see Chŏng Pyŏng-mo 鄭炳模, “Chōsen minga-ron” 朝鮮民画論 (Theories on Korean Folk Painting), ibid., pp. 262-271.

15 Based on the introduction to his book Shoki Ōtsu-e 初期大津 (The Beginnings of Ōtsu-e, 1929), reprinted in YSZ, vol. 13, 1982, p. 28.

16 See, among others, a series of texts by Yanagi on Tsukishima monogatari emaki 築嶋物語絵巻 (The Tale of Tsukishima Scroll), a 16th-century narrative painted scroll inspired by an edifying tale from the Muromachi period. The texts appeared in a special issue of the journal Kōgei (Crafts) in June 1936, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 13, 1982, pp. 400-422.

17 Yanagi explained his broad conception of folk painting in “Minga ni tsuite” について (On Folk Painting), Mingei zukan 民藝圖鑑, vol. 1, Tokyo, Hōbunkan, 1960, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 13, 1982, pp. 502-516.

18 Yanagi Sōetsu, Zakki no bi 雑器の美 (The Beauty of Miscellaneous Wares), 1927. Based on Mizuo Hiroshi 水尾比呂志, ‘Kosei-bi o koeru mono’ 個性美を超えるもの, YSZ, vol. 13, 1982, p. 743.

19 Remember that the first historical and anthropological studies of votive plaques were only conducted in the 1920s and 1930s. Examples include: Frederick Starr, “Ema” (Transactions of The Asiatic Society of Japan, vol. 48, 1920, a Japanese translation of which was published by the Tōyō Minzoku Hakubutsukan museum in Nara in 1930) and the work of folklorists Yanagita Kunio (“Ema to uma” 馬と馬 / Votive Plaques and Horses) and Nakayama Tarō 中山太郎 (‘Ema genryū-kō’ 馬源流考 / Thoughts on the Origins of Votive Plaques), which was published in a special edition of the journal Tabi to densetsu in 1930. The journal founded by Yanagi, Kōgei, devoted a special issue to the subject in 1937, featuring among others a text by the painter Serizawa (“Ema ni tsuite” 馬について / On Votive Plaques) and a study by the historian Nakamura Naokatsu 中村直勝: “Ema shōshi” 馬小史 (A Short History of Votive Plaques).

20 Cf. Yanagi Sōetsu, “Nihon mingei-hin tenrankai mokuroku” 日本民藝品展覧會目録 (Catalogue for the Japan Folk Crafts Exhibition), 15-17 March 1929, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 8, 1980, pp. 357-359. This exhibition, which was held in the Kyoto offices of the Mainichi newspaper, featured 55 paintings, including 21 Ōtsu-e (belonging to Yanagi), 11 doro-e gouache paintings and 19 votive plaques belonging to Serizawa Keisuke.

21 See the eight criteria set out by Yanagi for the objects held at the Mingeikan, in élisabeth Frolet (in French), op. cit., p. 108.

22 The book was published as the second volume in a collection devoted to folk craft (“Mingei sōsho”). The first volume, also written by Yanagi, focused on The Beauty of Miscellaneous Wares (Zakki no bi), 1927.

23 The first art historian to seriously study the subject was Taki Seiichi 瀧精(1873-1945), professor of Japanese Art History at Tokyo Imperial University from 1914 to 1943. In an essay published in the prestigious journal Kokka 國華 in January 1940 (“Ōtsu-e setsu” 大津 / “Theories on Ōtsu-e”), he admitted that: “Yanagi Sōetsu’s work The Beginnings of Ōtsu-e, is commendable. However, research on the historical importance of Ōtsu-e considered from a painting perspective remains insufficient.” Taki Setsuan bijutsu ronshū. Nihon-hen 瀧拙庵美術論集 日本篇, Tokyo, Zaūhō Kankōkai, 1943, p. 383.

24 Morii Toshiki 森井利喜, Ōtsu-e senshū 大津選集, Ōtsu, Ōtsu-e Kai, April 1926. For more information on this exhibition, see YSZ, vol. 13, 1982, pp. 147-148.

25 Katagiri Shūzō (ed.), Genshoku Ōtsu-e zufu 原色大津絵図譜, Ōtsu, Ōmi Kyōgei Bijutsukan, Dai-honzan Enman-in Monzeki, 1971; Katagiri Shūzō, Ōtsu-e kōwa 大津絵こう話, Hikone, Ōtsu-e Bunka Kyōkai, 1984.

26 In Shoki Ōtsu-e Yanagi lists 102 motifs categorised into broad genres: Buddhist images, the Seven Lucky Gods, goblins, historical or legendary figures, male characters, female characters, animals, birds, plants and architecture.

27 The Japan Folk Crafts Museum’s Ōtsu-e collection consists of 138 items which were published in Ogyū Shinzō 尾久彰三 (ed.), Ōtsu-e. Nihon mingeikan shozō 大津絵  日本民藝館所蔵, Tokyo, Tōhō Shuppan, 2005. The majority came from a posthumous donation received in 1985 from a private individual by the name of Komenami Shōichi 米浪庄弌, who shortly after the Second World War put together the most extensive collection of Ōtsu-e, comprising over 100 items.

28 The Ōtsu City Museum of History also holds over sixty works (some of which were presented in two exhibitions: Kaidō no minga. Ōtsu-e 街道の民画  大津絵, 1995, and Ōtsu-e no sekai 大津絵の世界, 2006), while the Machida City Museum has 46 items, which were recently published (Ōtsu-e. Machida shiritsu hakubutsukan zōhin zuroku 大津絵  町田市立博物館蔵品図録, 2006). The most ambitious publication on Ōtsu-e includes some 230 works (Kaidō ni umareta minga. Ōtsu-e 街道に生まれた民画  大津絵, Kyoto, Kōrinsha, 1987).

29 Basing his calculation on an estimated 50 pictures sold daily at the workshops of painters in and around Ōtsu, Mizuo Hiroshi arrived at a figure of more than 3.5 million paintings sold over the entire Edo period. Kokka 國華, Tokushū: Ōtsu-e” 特集  大津, no. 1267, May 2001, p. 21.

30 In Ukiyo-e zakki 浮世襍記 (Notes on Ukiyo-e, 1943) Nakada Katsunosuke 仲田勝之助 argued that the appearance of Ōtsu-e should be dated back to the Kan’ei era (1624-1644) and attempted to prove that “satirical paintings” (giga 戯画) had existed before Buddhist themes. Yanagi refuted these arguments in “Ōtsu-e gaisetsu” 大津概説 (General Presentation of Ōtsu-e), Kōgei, no. 120, January 1951, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 13, 1982, pp. 203-205.

31 Ōtsu-e no waka” 大津の和歌 (Poems in Ōtsu-e), Kōgei, no. 2, February 1931, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 13, 1982, pp. 177-202.

32 Ōtsu-e no hanashi” 大津の話 (On Ōtsu-e), a radio conference broadcast in Kyoto on 18 January 1929, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 13, 1982, p. 22.

33 For more information on this point, see my analysis of Kafū’s book, Edo geijutsu-ron 江戸藝術論 (Essays on Edo-Period Arts, 1920), in Christophe Marquet, « Le regard de Nagai Kafū: une relecture des arts d’Edo au début du xxe siècle » (The Views of Nagai Kafū: Reinterpreting Edo-Period Arts at the Beginning of the 20th Century), Cipango. Cahiers d’études japonaises, Inalco, no 12, 2005, p. 308-329.

34 See Nathalie Heinich, Du peintre à l’artiste. Artisans et académiciens à l’âge classique (From Painter to Artist. Craftsmen and Academicians in the Classical Age), Paris, Les éditions de Minuit, 1993 and L’élite artiste. Excellence et singularité en régime démocratique (Artistic Elite. Excellence and Singularity in a Democratic Regime), Paris, Gallimard, 2005.

35 Yanagi developed this issue in “Kōgei to bijutsu” 工藝と美術 (Applied Arts and Fine Arts), Mingei, no. 27, March 1933, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 8, 1980, pp. 554-570.

36 Yanagi made the following statement in a lecture given in 1936 at the Peers’ Club in Tokyo: “Ukiyo-ye is known the world over, partly because the artists are those of well-established reputation. It is a pity that little attention is paid to ōtsu-ye, which is not inferior to the better-known ukiyo-ye in beauty and grace.” Yanagi Sōetsu, translated by Sakabe Shigeyoshi, Folk-Crafts in Japan, Tokyo, Kokusai Bunka Shinkōkai, 1936, p. 36.

37 For further information on Yanagi’s two trips to the United States (in 1929-1930 and 1952-1953), see Nicole Coolidge Rousmaniere, “Yanagi’s America: Sōetsu Yanagi’s Two Extended Stays in the United States and Their Impact on America”, catalogue to the exhibition Mingei. Two Centuries of Japanese Folk Art (Peabody Essex Museum, Joslyn Art Museum, etc.), The Japan Folk Crafts Museum, 1995, pp. 48-55.

38 Based on a letter addressed to Bernard Leach on 15 September 1929, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 21-1, 1989, pp. 374.

39 This research, with which Yanagi assisted and which was the first detailed presentation of the history of Korean pottery in the United States, was published in the second volume of Eastern Art in 1930 under the title “Kōrai Celadon in America”. Yanagi published “A Note on the Pottery Kilns of the Kōrai Dynasty” in the same issue.

40 Langdon Warner, The Craft of the Japanese Sculptor, New York, MacFarlane, 1936, pp. 53-54. On the subject of Mokujiki, see François Macé’s article in this volume of Cipango.

41 Langdon Warner, The Enduring Art of Japan, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1952, the chapter Folk and Traditional Art”, pp. 76-84, in which Yanagi’s article on Ōtsu-e is extensively quoted. Warner accompanied his text with twenty or so examples of paintings, sculptures, ceramics and other folk wares (Fig. 62 to 78). 

42 Eastern Art, College Art Association, Philadelphia, vol. II, 1930, pp. 5-36.

43 Cf. “Japanese Peasant Painting”, Fogg Art Museum. Harvard University. Notes, vol. II, no. 5, June 1930, p. 228. Note that another Ōtsu-e exhibition, comprised of 44 items, had been organised two years earlier in London by the art dealer Yamanaka, accompanied by a modest catalogue: Otsuye: Old Japanese Caricatures, London, Yamanaka & Company, 1928, p. 18.

44 Yanagi Sōetsu, “Sashi-e kaisetsu. Minga ni tsuite” 解説  民に就て (Commentary on the Illustrations. On Folk Painting), Kōgei, no. 2, 1931, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 13, 1982, pp. 369-375.

45 Yanagi Sōetsu, “Kaiga-ron” 繪畫 (Essay on Painting), Kōgei, no. 37, January 1934, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 13, 1982, pp. 382-399, foreword p. 769.

46 Yanagi Sōetsu, “Kōgei-teki kaiga” 工藝的繪畫 (Folk Painting), Kōgei, no. 73, February 1937, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 13, 1982, pp. 423-436. This article was published in a special issue of the journal Kōgei dedicated to doro-e.

47 Yanagi Sōetsu, “Bijutsu to kōgei” 美術と工藝 (Fine Arts and Applied Arts), Ōsaka Mainichi Shinbun, 10-12 February 1931, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 8, 1980, pp. 432-436; Yanagi Sōetsu, “Kōgei to bijutsu” 工藝と美術 (Applied Arts and Fine Arts), Mingei, no. 27, March 1933, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 8, 1980, pp. 554-570.

48 Yanagi explained this decision in “Nihon mingeikan annai” 日本民藝館案内 (Presentation of the Japan Folk Crafts Museum), Gekkan Mingei, September 1939, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 16, 1981, p. 93.

49 On this point, see Yoshida Shōgorō 吉田小五郎, “Doro-e no hanashi” の話 (On Gouache Paintings), Kōgei, no. 73, March 1937.

50 Although the dating of doro-e remains the subject of debate, their production presumably dates back no further than the beginning of the nineteenth century. Indeed, they most likely do not predate the appearance of landscape themes in ukiyo-e, which began in the 1830s with artists like Hiroshige and Hokusai. The widespread use of Prussian Blue in these paintings confirms that they were produced no earlier than the 1820s. See Satō Morihiro, Edo doro-e: Gaze on Urban Space in Early Modern Japan, Master's Essay, Columbia University, Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, East Asian Studies, 1996. Japanese summary available on the website http://web.kyoto-inet.or.jp/people/b-monkey/.

51 See the following publications on doro-e: Edo no doro-e ten. Watanabe Shin.ichirō-shi korekushon 江戸の泥絵展  渡辺紳一郎氏コレクション Hamamatsu-shi Bijutsukan, 1977 (exhibition catalogue for the 300-strong Watanabe collection); Ono Tadashige 小野忠重, Garasu-e to doro-e. Bakumatsu, Meiji no shomin-ga kō ガラス絵と泥絵  幕末・明治庶民画考, Tokyo, Kawade Shobō Shinsha, 1990; Satō Morihiro 佐藤守弘, “Topogurafia to shite no meisho-e. Edo doro-e to toshi no shikaku bunka” トポグラフィアとしての名所絵  江戸泥絵と都市の視覚文化, Bigaku geijutsugaku 美学芸術学, no. 14, 1999; Satō Morihiro 佐藤守弘, “Toshi to sono hyōshō. Shikaku bunka to shite no Edo doro-e” 都市とその表象  視覚文化としての江戸泥絵, Bigaku 美学, no. 202, 2000.

52 Cf. Edo geijutsu-ron 江戸藝術論, in Christophe Marquet, op. cit., pp. 319-320.

53 See the book that Kishida Ryūsei 岸田劉生 devoted to this subject in 1926: Shoki nikuhitsu ukiyo-e 初期肉筆浮世 (The Beginnings of Ukiyo-e). Kishida also wrote about doro-e, which he described as crude” (gete no mono 下テのもの) but full of charm, and he provided reproductions of two examples from his own collection, ascribed to the Western-style painter Aōdō Denzen 亜欧堂田善 (1748-1822).

54 Walter Benjamin, L'Œuvre d'art à l'époque de sa reproductibilité technique (published in English as The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction) (first edition, 1935), translated by Rainer Rochlitz, in Œuvres III (Writings, vol. 3), Paris, Gallimard, 2000, p. 67-113.

55 Yanagi Sōetsu, Zakki no bi, 1927, reprinted in Mingei yonjū-nen, Tokyo, Iwanami Shoten, Iwanami Bunko collection, 1984, p. 95.

56 See, for example, the work of Kishi Fumikazu 岸文和 on the pictorial act”, Kaiga kōi-ron. Ukiyo-e no puragumatikusu 絵画行為論 浮世絵のプラグマティクス, Kyoto, Daigo Shobō, 2008.

57 Cho Cha-yong, Yi-Dynasty Painting and the Concept of Folk Art”, in Cho Cha-yong, Lee U-fan, Traditional Korean Painting. A Lost Art Rediscoverd, Tokyo, Kodansha International, 1990, pp. 159-173.

58 Yanagita Kunio, Yanagi Sōetsu, Shikiba Ryūzaburō 式場隆三郎, Higa Shunchō 比嘉春潮, Mingeigaku to minzokugaku no mondai” 民藝學と民俗學の問題 (The Problem of Folk Craft Studies and Folk Studies), Gekkan Mingei, vol. 2, no. 4, April 1940, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 10, 1982, pp. 735-747. See the translation by Damien Kunik and Jean-Michel Butel at the end of this volume.

59 Yanagi Sōetsu, Mingeigaku to minzokugaku” 民藝學と民俗學 (Folk Craft Studies and Folk Studies), Kōgei, no. 104, June 1941, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 9, 1980, pp. 272-287.

60 Yanagi also mentions this difference in the approach to votive plaques in Nihon mingeikan” 日本民藝館 (Japan Folk Crafts Museum), 1954, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 16, 1981, p. 190.

61 In a letter to Jean Buhot on the subject of Ōtsu-e, dated 25 December 1938, Leroi-Gourhan stated: I have reproductions, originals or late copies of almost all the themes now.” In a letter on the 23rd of the same month he drew up a list of the folk images” in his possession. Cf. André Leroi-Gourhan, Pages oubliées sur le Japon (Forgotten Pages on Japan), posthumous edition by Jean-François Lesbre, Grenoble, Éditions Jérôme Million, 2004, p. 72 and p. 67. A small number of the votive plaques (22 items) and Ōtsu-e (3 items) collected by Leroi-Gourhan are currently held at the Musée du Quai Branly (see the website http://www.culture.fr/collections).

62 This book, which aimed to study various genres of folk painting and crafts (votive plaques, toys, Ōtsu-e, family crests, etc.), as well as their forms and subjects, was begun in the early 1940s but never completed. The manuscript was edited by Jean-François Lesbre in ibid, pp. 276-377.

63 André Leroi-Gourhan, Documents pour l’art comparé de l’Eurasie septentrionale (Documents for the Comparative Art of Northern Eurasia), Paris, Les éditions d’art et d’histoire, 1943, p. 88.

64 In a letter to Buhot (op. cit, Pages oubliées sur le Japon, p. 105) Leroi-Gourhan quotes Yanagi’s book Shoki Ōtsu-e on the interpretation of a painting from Ōtsu. In a letter dated May 1938 (ibid., p. 40) he also mentions his visit to the Tokyo peasant museum” founded by Yanagi the previous year. Finally, in Formes populaires de l’art religieux au Japon he refers to recent Japanese research on votive plaques, including the work of Akashi Someto 明石染人, who studied them from a folk art” perspective (Akashi Someto, Mingei to shite no ema no kōsatsu” 民藝としての馬の考察, Bi , vol. 23, no. 4-5, Kyoto, Unsōdō, 1929).

65 Ibid., p. 285.

66 Yanagi Sōetsu, Nihon mingei bijutsukan setsuritsu shuisho” 日本民藝美術館設立趣意書 (Manifesto for the Creation of a Folk Art Museum), April 1926, reprinted in YSZ, vol. 16, 1981, pp. 5-10.

67 During a lecture given at the French Institute of Anthropology in 1940 after returning from Japan, Leroi-Gourhan spoke of having met Kawai Kanjirō, his precious adviser on folk art”, in Kyoto (op. cit., Pages oubliées sur le Japon, p. 412).

68 Letter to Jean Buhot, 20 May 1938, ibid., p. 40.

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List of illustrations

Title Yanagi Sōetsu at the Korean Folk Art Exhibition held in 1921 at the Ruissō Gallery in Kanda (Tokyo)
URL http://cjs.revues.org/docannexe/image/132/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 32k
Title The Korean Folk Crafts Museum, founded in 1924 in the former Royal Palace in Seoul
URL http://cjs.revues.org/docannexe/image/132/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 24k
Title Crabs and Water Lilies
Credits Korean folk painting from the Yanagi Collection, 19th century, Mingeikan
URL http://cjs.revues.org/docannexe/image/132/img-3.jpg
File image/jpeg, 24k
Title Tiger with Cubs
Credits Korean folk painting from the Serizawa Collection, 19th century, Serizawa Keisuke Art Museum, Shizuoka City
URL http://cjs.revues.org/docannexe/image/132/img-4.jpg
File image/jpeg, 80k
Title Folding Screen of Scholarly Implements (close-up)
Credits Korean folk painting from the Yanagi Collection, Mingeikan, Tokyo
URL http://cjs.revues.org/docannexe/image/132/img-5.jpg
File image/jpeg, 36k
Title The Tale of Tsukishima Scroll (Tsukishima Monogatari Emaki) (close-up
Caption Illuminated scroll from the Yanagi Collection, 16th century, presented in the journal Kōgei in 1936. Mingeikan, Tokyo.
URL http://cjs.revues.org/docannexe/image/132/img-6.jpg
File image/jpeg, 32k
Title Front cover of Yanagi Sōetsu’s book Shoki Ōtsu-e (The Beginnings of Ōtsu-e), 1929
URL http://cjs.revues.org/docannexe/image/132/img-7.jpg
File image/jpeg, 24k
Title Monkey carrying a Bell and a Lantern, Ōtsu-e from the Yanagi Collection, presented at the 1926 Ōtsu exhibition
Credits Mingeikan, Tokyo. Former Asai Chū Collection
URL http://cjs.revues.org/docannexe/image/132/img-8.jpg
File image/jpeg, 32k
Title Painter’s workshop in Ōtsu, taken from the Guidebook of Famous Places on the Tōkaidō Road (Tōkaidō meisho zue), 1797
URL http://cjs.revues.org/docannexe/image/132/img-9.jpg
File image/jpeg, 36k
Title Ōtsu-e of a cat and mouse featuring the moral ‘Not listening to the teachings of the Saints is an act that leads man to his downfall’ (Seijin no oshie o kakazu tsui ni mi o horobosu hito no shiwaza nari keri)
Credits Former Komenami Shōichi Collection, Mingeikan, Tokyo.
URL http://cjs.revues.org/docannexe/image/132/img-10.jpg
File image/jpeg, 24k
Title Monkey Immobilising Catfish with Gourde, Ōtsu-e from the Yanagi Collection, presented at the ‘Japanese Peasant Painting’ exhibition at the Fogg Museum, 1930
Credits Mingeikan, Tokyo
URL http://cjs.revues.org/docannexe/image/132/img-11.jpg
File image/jpeg, 36k
URL http://cjs.revues.org/docannexe/image/132/img-12.jpg
File image/jpeg, 52k
Title Kinokuni Slope and the Edo Residence of the Feudal Lord of Kii. Doro-e from the Yanagi Collection, presented in the journal Kōgei in 1937
Credits Mingeikan, Tokyo
URL http://cjs.revues.org/docannexe/image/132/img-13.jpg
File image/jpeg, 32k
Title View of Dejima and Nagasaki Bay, doro-e from the Yanagi Collection, presented in the journal Kōgei in 1937
Credits Mingeikan, Tokyo
URL http://cjs.revues.org/docannexe/image/132/img-14.jpg
File image/jpeg, 41k
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References

Electronic reference

Christophe Marquet, « Folk painting as defined by Yanagi Sōetsu: from revolutionary painters to pictorial revolution », Cipango - French Journal of Japanese Studies [Online], 1 | 2012, Online since 22 May 2013, connection on 24 October 2017. URL : http://cjs.revues.org/132 ; DOI : 10.4000/cjs.132

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About the author

Christophe Marquet

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