Japanese art and Saburosuke Okada: The Allure of Paris

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Japanese art and Saburosuke Okada: The Allure of Paris

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


Saburosuke Okada (1869-1939) was born one year after the Meiji Restoration of 1868 and he would witness many changes throughout his life. This applies to the Meiji period, Taisho era, and the early part of the Showa period. Throughout these dramatic years Japan went through many modernization processes and for artists a new world would open up. Therefore, Saburosuke Okada seized the moment and ventured abroad in order to further his artistic horizons.


In the early 1890s he studied under Keiichiro Kume and this enhanced his artistic skills and gave him a firm foundation, just like the school of Yukihiko Soyama had proved beneficial in 1887. By studying under Keiichiro Kume he was introduced to Seiki Kuroda and this period was one of real development and awakening.


The Japanese Ministry of Education sent Saburosuke Okada on a mission to France which was the hotbed of the art world in this period. He joined other Japanese artists in Paris and the cultural differences, language issues, different thought patterns, and a host of other important factors, led to many complex issues for all Japanese artists. However, irrespective of any negative social issues, the post-impressionist painters like Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh were viewed at countless galleries and art facilities.


Saburosuke Okada studied Western oil painting under Raphael Collin and in time he would also study Western print making. On his return to Japan in 1902 it was clear that Paris and been extremely beneficial despite complex cultural and linguistic factors. Therefore, the world of Japan and the power of Paris played a powerful dual role in this period of his life.


In 1912, along with Takeji Fujishima, they founded the Hongo Institute of Painting and this enabled both individuals to influence many artists. Raphael Collin also remained powerful within the art work of Saburosuke Okada and this fact highlights the significance of Paris and the French art scene. Therefore, the fusions of different styles and thought patterns helped Saburosuke Okada to reach new artistic dimensions.


On the Artelino website it is stated that “Back in Japan Okada resumed teaching at the Tokyo School of fine Arts. He worked in Western oil painting and in metal plate print making techniques like etching. In 1923 he contributed a woodblock print – famous and coveted by collectors – the Heroine Osan to the Complete Collection of Chikamatsu.


“In 1931 Okada Saburosuke founded the Nihon Hanga Kyokai – Japan Print Cooperative Society – and became its first chairman. Yamamoto Kanae, the grandfather of Sosaku Hanga, became vice-president. Okada Saburosuke had convinced the members of the Yofu Hangakai (Western Style Print Society) and the Sosaku Hanga Kyokai to dissolve their organizations and unite in the new Nihon Hanga Kyokai.” 


Throughout his entire career Saburosuke Okada was focused and clearly he helped greatly in the advancement of Japanese art. Therefore, in 1937 and he was rewarded for all the initiatives he had taken. This applies to receiving the Order for Cultural Merits which was richly deserved.




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