The grand opening of the National Palace Museum (NPM) Southern Branch by the end of 2015 indicated a milestone of a new stage of Asian studies in Taiwan.
This institution is dedicated to improving our understanding of the arts and cultures of Asia. The collection, combined with marvelous works from other institutions, helps to tell the story of the heritage and transformation of cultures in different areas in Asia over the millennia, demonstrating how this area became an important melting pot for art and culture. This artistic story is not confined to exchanges within Asia, but moreover includes the artistic and cultural exchanges between Asia and Europe as significant aspects in discussing Asian arts.
In terms of this aspect, for decades, the National Palace Museum concerned the topic of artistic exchange between China and Europe, take The Special Exhibition on the Tricentennal of Giuseppe Castiglione’s Arrival in Chin held in 2015 and The Special Exhibition Emperor Kangxi and the Sun King Louis XIV: Sino-Franco Encounters in Arts and Culture held in 2011 and 2012 for example. Following the opening of the NPM Southern Branch, exploring the issue how other areas beyond China adopt and adapt the European arts in Asia has become a gate to understand Asian arts. Based on the background mentioned above, this research aims to illustrate the so-called western style paintings in Japan to provides an alternative view in discussing cultural and artistic exchanges between Asian and Europe. By doing so, it helps us to get more comprehension of Asian arts, furthermore, it provides another view for curators in displaying the similar subject of exhibition.
In discussing a long-term perspective of western influences on Japanese arts, the European arts, especially Dutch arts, are dominant. However, based on my very basic investigation, so-called western-style paintings like the works by Shiba Kokan (1747-1818) were actually imbedded with Chinese style, which was the other influencing factor from west of Japan. In other words, these western-style artworks that looked like a result of the cultural exchange between the Dutch and Japanese arts are actually a reflection of multiple interactions among the Dutch, Japan, and China. In my opinion, in order to intensify research in this field from this perspective, we should truly have a comprehensive understanding of western-style paintings in Japan. This research project uses the figure images of the Europeans (especially the Dutch) and Nagasaki cityscapes (mainly focused on Chinese and Dutch residences) to analyze and compare the works of Shiba Kokan and Kawahara Keiga (1786-1860?) and rethink western influences on Japanese material culture in the late Edo period. During my stay at IIAS, in addition to sharing my thoughts with fellows who study similar fields, I will discuss related issues with Dr. Matthi Forrer from time to time. This research would provide not only an alternative view for discussing cultural and artistic exchanges between Asian and Europe but also another understanding of the shaping of cultural images in East Asia. Above all, the results of this research project will benefit the special exhibition of Cityscapes in East Asia, which will be held in the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum in Taiwan in 2018.