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PHOTOGRAPHY - JAPAN. - Portraits from photographs scrupulously hand painted to impersonate lithographs.

n.p. [c1880-1890?]. Two sheets, 54x41cm and 60x48cm, with nine portraits all but one oval; each about 25cm - ten inches - high. ¶ Are these the ultimate modern one-up-manship in family portraiture? Painted over photos are common enough and paintings from photos equally so but these are large scale, done from scratch purposely to mimic the grain of lithography. The stippling is so painstaking and exact that it would have been easier to make and print lithographs. By the 1880's reaction to modernity and the west, by nationalists watching their tradition vanish, was strident and often powerful. Don't forget the western design of the residence of the new Imperial Palace was abandoned after earthquake damage to brickwork and the official carpenter took over. No small victory for superior Japanese traditions. The arguments over portraiture and photography are often unexpected, confusing and contradictory to me. Schools that I would think traditionalist welcomed the camera and realism - though some disliked photo portraits for moral or ethical reasons - but whatever the argument the photograph and its wedded industry - portraits painted in oils over or from photos - became ubiquitous essentials for the family shrine. Our well to do family is not only on the side of western modernity, they go one step further by embracing the foreign technology of the lithographic print. So why hand painted on such a scale? Maybe partly because that's what a prominent family can afford but likely because portraits like this were still private family affairs. According to Conant (Challenging Past and Present), the painter Takahashi - portraitist of the Emperor - was thwarted in his 1880s project to paint portraits of the heroes of the Meiji by families refusing him use of their photographs. The smaller set of portraits here is signed and sealed Hokushu. The other, clearly later, has an illegible, to me, seal.
AUD 450.00 [Appr.: EURO 281.75 US$ 319.55 | £UK 240.75 | JP¥ 35561] Book number 9898

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