I owe Rosina Buckland a vote of thanks. Without her I would never have come across Katei Taki and wouldn’t be sharing these wonderful pictures with you now. They date from the end of the nineteenth century and show the influence of Chinese art on Japanese artists of the time.
Taki was one of the most successful painters of the Meiji era but his work has been relatively neglected since then. He was too much associated with the Ministry of the Imperial Household, while painters supported by the rival Ministry of Education went on to achieve lasting recognition. Japan’s changing relationship with China, which came to be seen as a rival rather than an artistic mentor, also contributed as the Ministry of Education, through the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, encouraged a new kind of Japanese painting, with a more western-influenced style.
Dr Buckland, who is a Senior Curator (Department of World Cultures) at the National Museum of Scotland where she curates the Japanese collections, has just brought out a book about Taki called Painting Nature for the Nation: Taki Katei and the Transformation of Sinophile Culture in Meiji Japan, which aims to redress the balance and restore his reputation.
The book, published by Brill, contains many previously unpublished paintings, collaborative works and book illustrations. It’s also, unfortunately, pretty pricey, currently available on Amazon for £74. So it’s one to get your university library to buy rather than a shoo-in for your Mum’s birthday present. But don’t despair – as I’ve just found, there is plenty of Taki’s work on show in museums and reproduced on the net.
So I decided to bring you this wonderful set of pictures from an album of twelve leaves in ink and colour on silk. It’s actually in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I know is a bit of a stretch for your average Londoner, but if you’re planning a shopping trip over the pond why not pop in and take a look? They’re in Gallery 225, part of the Sackler Wing Galleries of Japanese Art. They were given by Dr. and Mrs. Harold B. Bilsky in 1975, so my thanks go to them too.
Dr Buckland is currently working on an exhibition drawing on the National Museum of Scotland’s Japanese print collection and an exhibition titled Shunga: Sex and Humour in Japanese Art, 1600–1900 which we’ll be seeing at the British Museum this October.
Dr Buckland gave a talk about Taki at the Daiwa Foundation recently – you can find a recording of it here.