Yuki Ogura, A Pioneering Feminist of Japanese Modernism

Yuki Ogura, “Portrait of a Painter” (1962) (all pictures courtesy the Shiga Museum of Artwork)

SHIGA, Japan — Yuki Ogura’s 1962 “Portrait of a Painter” presents a uncommon glimpse into the artist’s psyche. In it, she seems out on the viewer and sketches on a pad of paper, as if she’s observing us from life. That very same sketchbook — which has been preserved for the reason that artist’s demise in 2000 — reveals that Ogura repeated the composition almost 20 occasions earlier than portray it. Though she portrays herself with a somber expression within the drawings, she has a figuring out, assured, youthful look within the portray, and an virtually mischievous grin. One thing has reworked for her right here: whether or not she’s depicting herself or one thing else, the act of creating an image clearly brings her a way of completion and even pleasure. 

The piece is the one self portrait in Yuki Ogura and the Painters of the Japan Art Institute: Taikan Yokoyama, Shunso Hishida, Yukihiko Yasuda, Seison Maeda, Gyoshu Hayami, and others on the Shiga Museum of Artwork. Curated by Hatsuki Tano, the exhibition options greater than 90 works by Ogura and the artists who influenced and later labored alongside her within the Nihon Bijutsuin, or Japan Artwork Institute (JAI), a bunch initially based in Tokyo in 1898. Ogura was a uncommon feminine artist in a corporation and area that have been each dominated by males, and it’s fascinating to see how she solid her personal path all through a lifetime that spanned the complete twentieth century. 

Ogura was born in 1895 in Otsu, Shiga prefecture. She studied Japanese and classical literature at what’s now the Nara Girls’s College, although she spent a lot of her school years drawing. After graduating in 1917, she started working as an elementary and highschool instructor, a job she would proceed in Kyoto, Nagoya, and Yokohama for the subsequent 22 years. Nevertheless, the drive to make artwork pulled at Ogura, and in 1920 she started to review portray underneath Yukihiko Yasuda, a JAI artist based mostly in Ōiso.

Yuki Ogura, “Sisters” (1970)

Works by Yasuda included within the exhibition present a possibility to understand simply how a lot Ogura differentiated herself from her mentor and from her male friends. Work like “Nukada-no-okimi at Asuka in Springtime,” made by Yasuda two years after Ogura’s energetic 1962 self portrait, usually embody historic figures with generalized options in static poses. Against this, Ogura principally painted from life. Though her artwork is rooted within the traditions of Japanese portray, her footage of latest ladies and women — usually modeled by the artist’s relations and mates — convey the complexity and quirkiness of actual, respiratory individuals.

“Sisters” (1970) exemplifies this. Although it’s painted in a lightweight, virtually cartoonish fashion, the women’ angled skirts draw our eye as much as the older sister’s quizzical, severe look, a reminder of the duties a sibling can carry even at this younger age. In “A Dancer” (1969), portraying a maiko or apprentice Geisha, the younger lady’s splendid clothes and hair pins coexist together with her ambivalent expression, which maybe alerts a sure weariness in regards to the evening earlier than or behind her.

One other distinction between Ogura and her JAI friends is her receptivity to Western influences. Japan’s first exhibitions of Picasso and Matisse in 1951 provided artists the chance to expertise artworks in person who they’d seen beforehand solely in books, pictures, and magazines. That 12 months additionally appears to mark a shift within the artist’s method: although she continued to work on paper, her delicate, smooth figures and flowers grew to become extra dynamic, hefty topics painted with a bolder, extra sinuous hand. “Household” (1958), a large-scale portray of a person and lady in a Western-style room, is rendered with darkish, assured traces over stable, unblended passages of paint, and is particularly putting for its experimental really feel.

Yuki Ogura, “A Dancer” (1969); The Nationwide Museum of Fashionable Artwork, Kyoto

Whereas she specialised in portraying ladies, maybe Ogura’s favourite style — and the one she pursued till her ultimate days — was nonetheless life. Her art work was knowledgeable by her meditation and non secular observe — she later married a Zen priest. Works like “Grape” (1959), with its pared-down composition and colours, are imbued with an important vibrancy, and the scattered bell peppers and bundled greens on counter tops in “Kitchen Items” (1980) remind us that for Ogura, who spent a few years as her mom’s nurse, the topics of her work weren’t purely aesthetic; they have been additionally the uncooked supplies of labor, care, and sustenance.

Ogura’s distinctive talent and perseverance was acknowledged throughout her lifetime. Past her frequent exhibitions and prizes, she was named a fellow of the JAI in 1928, grew to become its first feminine member in 1932, and served because the group’s director in 1978. Two years later, she grew to become solely the second feminine painter to be awarded the Order of Cultural Benefit. Regardless of the accolades, she continued to work with a quiet sense of exploration and innovation. She is a grasp colorist whose works subtly tackle private and social points. Humble and extremely human, even her footage of flowers and fruit are crammed with an simple sense of life. Her artwork is price seeing and celebrating immediately.

Yuki Ogura, “Grape” (1959)
Gyoshu Hayami, “Chrysanthemums” (1921); personal assortment, deposited to Shiga Museum of Artwork
Yuki Ogura, “A Stunning Morning” (1952); personal assortment
Seiju Omoda, “Flowering Vegetation of the 4 Seasons: Summer time and Winter” (1919), pair of six-panel folding screens
Gyoshu Hayami, “Shugakuin Village in Rakuhoku” (1918)
Yuki Ogura, “On a Path” (1966); Tokyo College of the Arts
Yukihiko Yasuda, “Nukada-no-okimi at Asuka in Sprintime” (1964)
Yuki Ogura, “Younger Lady Arranging Flowers” (1927), two-panel folding display, shade on paper; Fukuda Artwork Museum

Yuki Ogura and the Painters of the Japan Art Institute: Taikan Yokoyama, Shunso Hishida, Yukihiko Yasuda, Seison Maeda, Gyoshu Hayami, and others continues on the Shiga Museum of Artwork (1740–1 Setaminamiogayacho, Otsu, Shiga, Japan) by means of June 18. The exhibition was curated by Hatsuki Tano.