The term “Kiinseido” (気韻生動) means that a work of art is full of noble character, elegance, and vivacity. This phrase is said to have been coined by the Meiji-era thinker and art critic Kakuzo Okakura, who sought a state of being for painters. The exhibition will feature works by Hirakushi Denchu, who lived through the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa eras until the age of 107 and left behind wonderful wood sculptures, as well as contemporary artists Kiichi Sumikawa, Takashi Fukai, Katsura Funakoshi, Kimio Tsuchiya, Tatsuo Miyajima, Atsuhiko Misawa, Koji Tanada, Yoshihiro Suda, Tomotaka Yasui, Kohei Nawa, Yoshimasa Tsuchiya, secca, and paintings by Masato Kobayashi and Ryosuke Hara. Of particular note is the exhibition space, the Homotsuden Treasure Museum Chuso, built in 1921, and the display cases inside it, both of which are designated as National Important Cultural Properties. We hope you will enjoy the graceful works on display.
Singing Kimigayo , 1901
A boy in a naval uniform is singing with a hat in his right hand and sheet music in his left. This work was created by Hirakushi Denchu when he was 29 years old, and was purchased by the Imperial Household Agency after the Meiji Emperor saw it at an exhibition in 1901. The texture of the clothes, especially the scarf, is so skillful that it is hard to believe it is a wood sculpture. Denchu’s friend Yonehara Unkai is said to have remarked, "This must be the first time that a work created in three tatami mat room has been purchased by the Imperial Household.” It is said that when this work came on the market in his later years, Denchu, who lived to be 107 years old, appraised it himself.
Statue of Emperor Ojin, 1940
This work is a bronze statue of Emperor Ojin dedicated to Yamanaka Hachiman Shrine by Hirakushi Denchu when he was 68 years old. It is said that Denchu returned to his hometown of Ibara, in Okayama Prefecture, in 1941 for the dedication of the statue for the first time in 50 years, at the request of a local school teacher.
Infant with Papier-mache Dog , 1911
This work captures an instant in time when a young child is playing with a doll, and suddenly his attention is drawn to another toy. The model was Toshiro, Denchu’s eldest son, and with its round cheeks, smooth skin, and soft hair, this work brims with the artist’s love for his young child. In every way, it is a lovely figure. Sadly though, Toshiro was to die of tuberculosis at the young age of 17. The work is known as a masterpiece of modern sculpture with its excellent use of space. Toshiro later died of tuberculosis at the young age of 17. This work was created when Denchu was 39 years old, at a time when he was already highly regarded as a brilliant woodcarver, and was purchased by the Emperor Meiji.
Old Man Searching for His Cow , 1913
This work represents the first scene of the Ten Bulls, which shows the process of Zen practice and enlightenment (in Buddhist Zen, the discernment of a person's innate nature) in ten diagrams. The work shows nothing but a man looking for his lost cow, but its simplicity allows the viewer to let his imagination run wild. It is said that the respected art critic Kakuzo Okakura wanted to show this work to young French artists. Perhaps he wanted to convey that the quality of Hirakushi Denchu's work was world-class.
Shepherd , 1965
An old man relaxing and gazing at the sky, with a lamb sleeping comfortably in his lap. The pair seem to have surrendered themselves to the eternal flow of time, creating a truly magnificent atmosphere. Unusually for Denchu, this work is not based on any specific literary, historical, or Chinese legend. Denchu himself later said, "I created this work because I was interested in the sleeping figure of a lamb.” It was first exhibited at the Nihon Bijutsuin exhibition in 1923, and is one of Denchu's most memorable colored works.
Prototype "Kagami-jishi" (Kabuki Dance),1976
This is a prototype of Hirakushi Denchu's masterpiece, Kagami-jishi. Denchu went to the Kabuki Theater to watch the famous actor Onoe Kikugoro VI play the role, changing from seat to seat so as to imprint the figure in his mind. With Kikugoro's cooperation, he first created a figure without the costume, and then the final work which ended up being larger than life-size. That work is still on display in the lobby of the National Theatre. Here, the gorgeous costume, white wig indispensable to the Kagami lion, and the dynamic pose are all exquisitely sculpted in wood. Even if you don't know the name of Hirakushi Denchu, this work might well be familiar. Despite being carved from wood, many people mistake the costume and wig for the real thing. The texture of the costume and the lightness of the lion wig make this a masterpiece of overwhelming skill.
Ceremonial Reading (Statue of Dr. Sanjiro Ichimura), 1937
This is a portrait of Sanjiro Ichimura reading at the bathing ceremony on the occasion of the birth of Emperor Akihito.The model, Dr. Ichimura, a renowned scholar of Chinese and Oriental history, was chosen to name the Crown Prince on the occasion of his birth in 1933, and performed the honor of reading at the bathing ceremony. This statue is a portrait of him at that time. One of the finest examples of Denchu’s portraiture work, the realistic facial expression and stylized clothing are brought together by the coloring to create a work of elegance by a true master of his generation.
Dr. Kado Hara on Holiday , 1940
Born in what is now Suzaka City, Nagano Prefecture, Yoshimichi Hara played a major role in legal and political circles from the Meiji period to the early Showa period, including serving as president of the Tokyo Bar Association, president of Chuo University, and Minister of Justice. It is said that when Denchu visited Hara's residence after receiving the commission to create this work, Hara came into the reception room in his normal clothes and plonked himself down in an armchair. Denchu was so amused by the way Hara looked that he portrayed him just as he was. The work is notable for its descriptive power among Denchu’s portrait sculptures. The effective coloring was done by the Japanese painter Nakamura Gakuryo.
Crane Coat (Statue of Tenshin Okakura), 1977
Kakusho, or “crane coat”, refers to a robe woven with crane feathers. When Kakuzo Okakura attended a soirée at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, hosted by renowned art collector Isabella Gardner, he wore a white kimono and the collar of his cloak was black, which was compared to a crane. This work is based on a photograph that appeared in a publication called "Nihon Bijutsu". The words "Asia is One" are written on the side of the pedestal, which is a famous line from Okakura's book "Eastern Ideals”.