(1898 – 1973)
116.2 x 36.2 cm image; 189.0 x 52.4 cm mount
The scroll depicts in very subtle colour and sensual, fluid lines a stylish young woman, wearing a grey evening dress and a blue jacket that slips casually over one side to bare the white skin of her shoulder. The willow branches hovering over her indicate that the scene takes place in the trendy Ginza district in Tokyo, where modern boys and modern girls loved to parade the streets to shop, eat, drink, or just to see and to be seen. The combination of a beauty below a willow tree illustrates the classical image of the 'willow-waisted' slender woman, who is as elegant yet pliable as the tree beside her. Beside cherry blossoms, willows were the emblems of courtesans, symbolizing their realm of transient pleasure. The combination of gentility and sexual innuendo imbues this painting with an underlying tension and enhances its significance in a time when the appearance of fashionable women in public aroused anxiety.
Japan in the early part of the 20th century was a place of great change and challenge, nowhere more evident than in the arts of the Taisho and early Showa eras from 1900 to 1930s. Western-oriented ideologues championed the avant-garde tastes from Europe and America. In turn, nativists sought an antidote to western materialism in the values of the Japanese past. The crucial question of the day was: how could one be both Japanese and modern at the same time when modernity was defined as Western? This dichotomy becomes most apparent in the image of women, as on the one hand we have the 'modern girls' type – 'modaan garu' or short 'moga' - who symbolises Westernised modernity, liberation from convention and sexual freedom, and on the other hand the 'Good wives – wise mothers' – 'ryosaikenbo' - who safeguard traditional values. The young woman depicted here epitomises the 'moga' type, she is self-confident and fashionable but at the same time seems to be isolated and lonely.
Asian Art Department, AGNSW, October 2011.
Born in Tokyo, Chikatoshi became a student of Kaburagi Kiyokata in 1916. He exhibited together with Ito Shinsui, Yamakawa Shuho and other students of Kiyokata in 1918 and graduated from the Nihonga section of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (Tokyo Bijutsu Gakko) in 1921. A year later, in 1922, his painting 'Trip' won an award in the fourth Teiten; subsequently he received many more awards and gained popularity for his paintings of modern beauties ('bijinga') in Japanese style. 'Girl in a Hammock' was shown in the eighth Teiten in 1927. 'Taking a Walk in the Garden' won the grand prize in the eleventh Teiten in 1929. He exhibited in Teiten and Shin Bunten throughout the 1930’s. In addition to showing his work at public exhibitions, he participated in Kiyokata's private Kyodokai and Ito Shinsui’s Seiginkai. During this era, the Kyodokai members were known for their avant garde style and Chikatoshi in particular was an artist with a reputation for such works. After the war he became a juror for Nitten exhibitions. In 1962 he was commissioned to paint murals for the Hotel Okura. Chikatoshi's work is well represented in the collection of the Meguro Gajoen Museum of Art.
Text provided by Patricia Salmon.
Kendall H. Brown and Sharon Minichiello, Taisho chic: Japanese modernity, nostalgia and deco, United States of America, 2003, 50. cat.no. 10
Taisho Chic: Japanese Modernity, Nostalgia, and Deco: