Andrew W. Mellon Graduate Fellow in the Humanities
2011—2012 Forum on Adaptations
History of Art
Confronting Modernity: White Birch Magazine and the Japanese Avant-garde
From 1908 to 1912 the second generation of modern Japanese artists returned home to Tokyo after studying in Europe. Reframing the debate on Japanese painting, they used the venue of the avant-garde art magazine White Birch, to engage in a process of transferring, exchanging, appropriating, and, most importantly, adapting European sources to create a new modernism. My work examines key moments in modern Japanese art by focusing upon the careers of three White Birch affiliated artists; Takamura Kōtarō, Kishida Ryūsei, and Umehara Ryūzaburo. I argue that their participation in White Birch's dialogue with modern styles in painting and sculpture revolutionized the production and exhibition of art in Tokyo during the nineteen-teens and twenties. "Modernism," I propose, became an international language, style, and attitude, transformed for early-twentieth century Japan.