ASIA212Varley

Probably the first public performance of western

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Unformatted text preview: u Bijutsu Gakkò) and invited several Italian artists to provide training in painting, sculpture, and general methods of art. The most important of these was Antonio Fontanesi (1818–82), who during his stay of approximately two years in Japan made a profound impression on the students he taught, several of whom became outstanding Western-style painters in later years. So popular was Fontanesi that when he left for home in 1878, at least partly owing to a difference of opinion with his employers in the Japanese government, a number of students withdrew from the school and founded a society for the furtherance of Western art, thereby inaugurating the first independent art movement of the modern era in Japan. Fontanesi’s departure was undoubtedly related to the beginning of a trend in the late 1870s and 1880s away from Western art to a revival of interest in the traditional art of Japan. Coincidentally, in the very same year that Fontanesi left, 1878, another foreigner, the young American Ernest Fenollosa (1853–1908), arrived in Japan to begin a remarkable career as one of the two leading figures in the great resurgence of native art appreciation. Fenollosa, a recent graduate of Harvard, was originally engaged to teach philosophy at Tokyo Imperial University, but before long he became an outspoken (and highly opinionated) admirer of Far Eastern, and particularly Japanese, art. Eventually, Fenollosa evolved a grand philosophical concept along the lines of “Eastern morals and Western technology,” according to which he prophesied a Hegelian-type dialectical synthesis between the spiritual East and the material West that would advance the world to a new cultural plane. On a more immediate and practical level, Fenollosa, along with one of his students, Okakura Ten- 266 Encounter with the West shin (1862–1913), began to take stock of Japanese art and to advocate ways in which it could be repopularized and perpetuated. Traditional Japanese art and artists had unquestionably fallen on bad times during the early Restoration period. The two leading practitioners of the ancient Kanò school of painting, for example, were reduced to menial occupations in order to earn their livings. It was also because of the almost total lack of interest in na...
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