18.15 Uhr

Painting Without Brushmarks: Mōrōtai and the Transnational Diffusion of Pictorial Blurriness Around 1900

CANCELLED: Painting Without Brushmarks: Mōrōtai and the Transnational Diffusion of Pictorial Blurriness Around 1900

Noriko Murai, Sophia University, Tokyo

Please note: Due to the recent spread of the corona virus the talk can't take place for the time being.

Mōrōtai, commonly translated as “hazy style,” refers to experimental paintings produced around 1900 by modern Japanese painters such as Yokoyama Taikan and Hishida Shunsō. The painters intentionally suppressed brushmarks and avoided a sharp delineation of forms. The resulting works have a diffused appearance without a strong focus. The critical infamy of these paintings, derided at the time as “hazy” in both appearance and conception, marks a rare moment in the history of Nihonga (modern Japanese paintings done in traditional East Asian media) where a specific formal quality—namely, the absence of visible brushwork—was singled out for its perceived threat to the existing criteria of judging painting in East Asia. This lecture proposes a new interpretation of mōrōtai by arguing that its nebulous surface visualized the experience of modernity as constant change, a philosophical view espoused by the painters’ mentor Okakura Kakuzō. Furthermore, their attempt was not an isolated phenomenon, but can be discussed within the broader, transnational artistic tendency around the turn of the twentieth century, whether France, England, or the US, towards pictures that deliberately obscured the shape of forms to produce a visual effect of blurriness, which simultaneously sustains and frustrates the viewer’s desire to see.

Noriko Murai is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Graduate Program in Global Studies at Sophia University in Tokyo. Specialist of modern Japanese art, her publications in English include Journeys East: Isabella Stewart Gardner and Asia (2009) and “Beyond Tenshin: Okakura Kakuzō’s Multiple Legacies” (Review of Japanese Culture and Society, Vol.24, 2012).


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