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Dissertation project Schenk (abstract)

Art Nouveau in Japan – Romanticism, Ornamentality und Intermediality in Early 20th Century Japanese Visual Culture

(tentative title)

(supervisor: Prof. Dr. Evelyn Schulz)

Takehisa Yumeji (1884-1934) is often referred to as the “Utamaro of the Taishō-Period” or a “Pioneer of Graphic Design in Japan”, but yet he has scarcely been the subject of scholarly attention outside of Japan. Detailed research on this particular artist is first and foremost in Japanese only to this day. Due to the growing international interest in early 20th century Japanese Art, which has also been increasingly sought after by museums and collectors, this period is also being featured in recent scientific works. This increasing attention also includes Yumeji and his work.

Despite Yumeji’s peculiar and unique oeuvre, his art is nevertheless significant for his period. It is a prominent example of the reception of the modern and an inherent interpretation through the art of the day. His work, covering multiple genres, was hardly perceived as fine art by his contemporaries and therefore scarcely perceived outside of Japan. In contrast to that, Yumeji’s illustrations and designs remain popular even in today’s Japan and from the postwar area onwards his works have frequently been considered in collected works of Japanese art.

This PhD project aims to compensate for the research deficit on Yumeji outside of Japan. Complementary to a survey of Yumeji‘s life and works, this thesis will focus on primary sources, reflecting concepts towards the art of the day and their evaluation against the background of Yumeji’s work, as well as the contemporary art world. In the course of this, the emphasis will lie on reciprocities of cultural relationships within flows of international modern art.

Thus this dissertation centers on the question, what theoretical background has been adopted in the course of a reception of the modern in Japan (and which aspects have been omitted), and – taking Yumeji’s work as example – how it has been implemented in art.