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Copying the Master and Stealing His Secrets

Brenda G. Jordan & Virginia Weston (eds.)

Publication Year: 2003

Copying the Master examines the transmission of painting traditions in Japan from one generation to the next. The contributors emphasize the relationship between inborn abilities and those skills taught in the course of learning how to paint. They focus their discussion on a group of painting masters loosely associated with the prestigious Kano painting atelier, Japan's de facto painting academy throughout the Tokugawa period (1615-1868) and into the early modern era. By delving into why, how, and what these painters transmitted to students through their teaching, readers gain insight into artistic and aesthetic sensibilities active in Japanese painting and a fuller appreciation of extant paintings within their cultural and historical contexts.

Contributors: Frank Chance, Karen M. Gerhart, Brenda G. Jordan, Martha J. McClintock, J. Thomas Rimer, Victoria Weston.

71 illus., 14 in color

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

Front Matter

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pp. i-v


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xi

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pp. xiii-xiv

The idea for this book was initially suggested by Frank Chance, over coffee, as we were discussing John Singleton’s two-part panel on Japanese apprenticeship during the 1994 Association for Asian Studies meeting, at which those panels were being presented. I took Frank’s suggestion for a book on Japanese painters’ training seriously, having no idea of the difficulties that would be incurred with this topic....

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Notes to the Reader

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pp. xv-xvi

A modified Hepburn system of romanization is used throughout this text for Japanese words. Unlike the standard system, the “n” is maintained even when it is followed by homorganic consonants (e.g., shinbun, not shimbun). In addition, vowel lengths are indicated, and the moraic nasal followed by a vowel or the letter “y” is separated with an apostrophe....

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An Afterword Posing as a Foreword: Some Comparative and Miscellaneous Thoughts on Talent and Training

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pp. xvii-xxii

The remarkable collection of essays in this volume is the first of its kind, articulating a sketch map of a territory so far uncharted in Western-language studies of the Japanese traditional visual arts. For many Western art lovers who view and appreciate works created in these traditions, they are often spoken of as though they were somehow disembodied from changes and vagaries of the culture...

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pp. 1-8

When asked about his teaching methods in a 1978 interview, the nihonga painter Iwahashi Eien (b. 1903) said, “I don’t teach anything to young people. . . .I think it’s good that I don’t teach anything. I tell them that I was not taught anything by my teacher, and [so] I don’t teach. . . . When I am fed something forcibly, then I feel...

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Chapter 1. Talent,Training, and Power: The Kano Painting Workshop in the Seventeenth Century

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pp. 9-30

The seventeenth-century Kano workshop laid the foundation for an ongoing discourse on talent and training, and it developed artistic methods that proved vital to its continued institutional health. Founded in the fifteenth century, the Kano family of painters flourished due to the political astuteness of their leaders, abundant talent, and outstanding organizational skills.1 The family system...

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Chapter 2. Copying from Beginning to End? Student Life in the Kano School

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pp. 31-59

As the de facto painting academy of Tokugawa Japan (1615–1868), the Kano school was intent on perpetuating and broadening its influence. By the late seventeenth century, the power and prosperity of high-ranking Kano ateliers in both Kyoto and Edo appeared unassailable. But even...

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Chapter 3. In the Studio of Painting Study: Transmission Practices of Tani Bunchō

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pp. 60-85

In the previous chapters, we learned how the Kano family developed into the Kano school, retaining its familial structure even as it built an academic institution. The Kano were by far the most successful academic painters in the history of Japan, and the Kano institutionalization of gakuga, the notion that excellence in painting depends...

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Chapter 4. Kawanabe Kyōsai’s Theory and Pedagogy: The Preeminence of Shasei

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pp. 86-115

High-ranking Kano painters employed shasei (drawing or painting from life or nature) as a professional tool,but learning the practice of shasei was apparently not conventional Kano student training. As a pupil in the Surugadai atelier, Kawanabe Kyōsai had become fluent with the copybook method, yet like Tani Bunchò and others of his period, he was also open to alternate practices.When Kyòsai

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Chapter 5 [includes images]. Okuhara Seiko: A Case of Funpon Training in Late Edo Literati Painting

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pp. 116-146

The Kano school must figure in any discussion of the training of Edo-period painters, particularly in regard to funpon and copybook method.Whether the preparatory ground for future Kano school painters or for those who forged independent lineages, Kano pedagogy shaped numerous painters’ understanding of the craft of painting.Yet...

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Chapter 6. Institutionalizing Talent and the Kano Legacy at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, 1889–1893

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pp. 147-177

What happened when the site for painting education moved from the relatively personal confines of the studio to the institutional setting of the art school? Tani Bunchō and Kawanabe Kyōsai both offered tremendous breadth in the training in their studios, but they were single masters. A school...

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Epilogue: From Technique to Art

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pp. 178-187

In the late 1800s, the French Impressionist Camille Pissarro (1830–1903) wrote to a young painter who had asked his advice, “Paint the essential quality, try to convey it by any means whatsoever, without bothering about technique.”1 Although an excerpt from a letter, this statement reveals an attitude toward technique that was not...

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pp. 189-194

Notations on building commissions in historical records provide evidence not only of which artists participated, but also of their relative positions within the Kano family at the time the work was commissioned. Throughout, the painters at the top of the pyramid are noted first, followed by those of lesser status in descending order, with the higher-ranking painters decorating the more prestigious rooms.1...


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pp. 195-232


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pp. 233-242


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pp. 243-244


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pp. 245-248

E-ISBN-13: 9780824862008
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824826086

Publication Year: 2003