Retrospective 1908 – 1999
24 October – 3 December 2018
National Art Center, Tokyo
This exhibition will be held to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the birth of Kaii Higashiyama, a highly-acclaimed postwar nihonga (Japanese-style painting) artist and one of Japan’s most favourite painters. He is particularly known for his nature paintings imbued with deep spirituality.
The retrospective will delve into the art of this great artist through a total of some 80 works that include his classics such as “Road”, “Afterglow” and “Vibrant Green”, as well as his landscape paintings depicting Scandinavia, Germany and Kyoto.
A highlight of the exhibition, the paintings of Toshodai-ji Temple, which took him 10 years to complete and made him a worldly renowned artist, will be reproduced at the museum.
《Road》1950, Higashiyama Kaii, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Kaii Higashiyama (1908 – 1999)
He was born Shinkichi Higashiyama in Yokohama in 1908. Higashiyama is his family name, and Kaii is the pen name he later adopted. Higashiyama studied nihonga at Tokyo School of Fine Arts. After graduation in 1939, he travelled Europe for a short period and studied Western art history at the University of Berlin for 2 years.
Passing through hardship before and after the Second World War, he eventually established his painting style. He had his first major success in 1947 when the “Afterglow” won the first prize of the Nitten, the most prestigious art competition in the country.
His landscape paintings depicting natural beauty have touched the heart of many people.
《Vibrant Green》1982, Higashiyama Kaii, Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum / Higashiyama Kaii Gallery
《Afterglow》1947, Higashiyama Kaii, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Highlights of the Kaii Higashiyama exhibition
After traveling to Scandinavia in 1962, he completed a series of works painting the Nordic landscape, with a limpid, mystical touch.
《Winter Flower》1964, Higashiyama Kaii, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Ancient capital Kyoto
Higashiyama was commissioned to produce a painting to hang on the wall inside the Imperial Palace, and he went to Kyoto in search of ancient Japanese motifs. In 1968, the same year as the completion of the large painting for the Palace, he also realized “Four Seasons in Kyoto”.
《Bright Cherry Blossoms》1968, Higashiyama Kaii, Daiwa Securities Group Inc.
Germany and Austria
In 1969, he visited Germany and Austria, bringing about paintings of the townscape and buildings of these countries.
Folding screens and sliding doors of Toshodai-ji Temple
He was commissioned to produce paintings for the Mieido Hall of Toshodai-ji Temple in Nara, where the statue of the Chinese monk Ganjin (“Jianzhen” in Chinese), the founder of the temple, is placed.
It took him 10 years to complete, in 1971, the paintings on folding screens (byobu) and sliding doors (fusuma), which represent landscapes of Japan and the monk’s home country China.
In this exhibition a total of 68 panels of these paintings will be reproduced and displayed.
Toshodaiji Miei-do Murals [sic]: Mountain Clouds (detail) 1975, Higashiyama Kaii, Toshodaiji
Toshodaiji Miei-do Murals [sic]: The Sound of Waves (detail) 1975, Higashiyama Kaii, Toshodaiji
The artist was now over 70 years old and extremely busy as a popular artist. For him painting became like praying. The scenery he painted was no longer from Japan nor abroad, but a deep expression of his inner world.
《Passing Autumn》1990, Higashiyama Kaii, Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum / Higashiyama Kaii Gallery
《White Morning》1980, Higashiyama Kaii, The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
《Evening Star》1999, Higashiyama Kaii, Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum / Higashiyama Kaii Gallery
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