Kayama Matazo’s Nihonga

Parlett, Shiori
Supervisor: Dr. P.R. Stanley-Baker

Kayarna Matazo (b.1927) is a leading Nihonga artist who has the reputation of being a Rimpa artist. However, none of the art critics responsible for creating this image have given sufficient reasons to justify this simplistic classification of Kayama’s works. Understanding whether he should be considered to be a Rimpa artist or not is particularly important because how his works are looked at or from which fixed ideological viewpoints they are studied depends on how they are classified. If one wishes to categorise him simply as a Rimpa artist, then his major project, to establish a new Nihonga, would be left in the wind. The aim of this study is to focus on what Kayarna attempts to paint in his works, and how he helped Nihonga to recover its popularity in the 1950s and 1960s.

This research is cartied out through various sources including magazines at the time, his biography, his contemporary Nihonga (Japanese-style) and yoga (Western-style) artists as well as art critics from both sides, while also considering the socio-political background. Particular attention is paid to interpreting possible meanings for Rimpa and Nihonga.

After an introduction in the first chapter, the second chapter begins by clarifying the origins and definition of the Rimpa school and moves on to discuss whether Kayama should be viewed as a Rimpa artist or not.

Then, in the third chapter, the meaning and usage of the term Nihonga, which is a particularly topical subject, is studied with special attention paid to the writings of Kitazawa Noriaki and Sato Doshin. However, this chapter concentrates more on the pertinent question of what Nihonga is to Kayama, rather than digressing into a purely academic debate about the meaning of the word.

In the fourth chapter. a study of Kayama’s biography from the 1920s to the 1940s is conducted in a way that includes a look at his contemporaries, possible influential figures and the socio-political background of the time. In this way, his works and their development are studied from various points of view.

Chapter five discusses the significance of Kayama’s works and his ideas of Nihonga through his biography and his works in the 1950s and the 1960s. A plausible assessment is developed by considering his notion of decorative art, the relation between art and craft, and the relation between his works and his own religious beliefs.

The main contribution of this research is to introduce a contemporary Nihonga artist in English, which is important since there are so few critical books regarding Nihonga. The analytical study of Kayama Matazo as a contemporary artist will make possible a more accurate understanding of Nihonga itself, which hopefully will allow his works to be appreciated from a much wider perspective.