Funada Gyokujū

by Hanna

(“Evening Flowers” (Hana no Yūbe) by Funada Gyokujū, also occasionally known as Funada Tamaki, with thanks to Cloudy with a Chance of Clouds)

This painting is well on its way to becoming famous. It was the poster child for the recent exhibit “The Avant Guard of ‘Nihonga’ 1938 – 1949″ at the MOMAT (National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo). “Nihonga” means painting using traditionally Japanese materials and often incorporating Japanese themes, styles, and techniques.

The MOMAT exhibition did not focus specifically on Funada, but on the group of artists of which he was a member. However, most of my favorite paintings on display were by him. I’ll try to dedicate more posts to other artists of the group as I get access to images, but for now, a few more images by Funada. . .

Here some information as posted on the MOMAT exhibition website.

The new type of work by the “nihonga painters” who were members of the “Rekitei Bijutsu Kyokai”, founded in 1938, brilliantly expresses the trend of “The Avant–Garde.” Western style painters who influenced and associated with those “nihonga painters” should be focused on as well. However, this activity did not move forward smoothly because of the World War II. This exhibition will review the transition of the activity which became “The incomplete Avant–Garde” due to the expansion of the war, and will also follow the rebirth of the “Rekitei Bijutsu Kyokai” that was named “Pan Real” after the war.

The war destroyed too much. The second half of the exhibit clearly showed the psychological struggles these artists were confronted with. . .

It is also amazing that there have been few major exhibitions of the Rekitei group until now. This seems to have been the first exhibition ever dedicated solely to the Rekitei Group. What’s more, Funada’s work has been included in various prominent exhibits, but he has never had a solo exhibition in a major museum. It’s about time these artists were recognized!

(“Lemon Orchard at Dawn” (Akatsuki no lemon-en) My apologies for the glare in the photograph. Naturally I couldn’t take one myself in the museum, and this is the only picture I could find online, but it put a big smile on my face when I came across it in the gallery. Note that “Evening Flowers” and  “Pines No. 5″ are also folding screens and can therefore be stood up similarly to this screen. Thanks to Fukuhen for the photo.)

At MOMAT, I found a flier about a short gallery exhibition at the Art Front Gallery in Daikanyama that was solely dedicated to Funada’s work. My favorites in the gallery exhibition were his pine folding screens and his cloud covered mountain paintings in a square format. The paintings in this exhibit were from Funada’s post-war period, both paintings below are from the 80s. Unfortunately, that exhibit also closed today. Let’s hope we get more exhibits soon!

(“Pines No. 5,” (Matsu 5), photography does not do this painting justice. I stood in front of it dumbfounded. At first the tangle of branches amazed me, and then I noticed the background was black from the layers of shadowy pine needles. Image from Art Front Gallery.)

(“Pines” (Matsu). Image from Art Front Gallery.)

For a bare bones timeline on Funada’s life, see this pdf from Art Front Gallery. Please tell me if you find more information about him online in English, and I’ll study up on him in Japanese once I get through this pile of schoolwork.

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