The panel will focus on art/literature (yûgei) salon networks, primarily in Kyoto/Osaka, and their function of supporting artistic activity, both of those aspiring to be 'professional' and those who were content or preferred to remain 'amateur'.
The panel is based on a research project primarily focused on the British Museum collection of paintings, books, actor prints and surimono prints (with images and poems), which date from the 18th/19th century. Some of the works are by famous artists, but many are by 'amateurs' or little known painters. We know that artistic salons (poetry, painting, music) were an essential and officially (by the authorities) accepted means for socializing (including women) among all classes. These salons were led by 'professional' artists/poets and wealthier patrons, but included a wide range of individuals from various walks of life. The convention was that these salon spaces were egalitarian and usually participants took pennames/art names when joining in activities. These salons were evident throughout Japan, but particularly active and widespread in the kamigata region. One aim is to show the important but relatively ignored significance of Osaka art. The presentations will focus on how these salon networks supported artistic activity, both of aspiring professionals and of those who were content to remain amateur. The salons, which were widely popular and the key way individuals socialized outside their work or neighbourhood, enabled artists/poets to make a living through teaching and selling paintings or publishing books. An aim of the project is to create an exhibition at the British Museum built on this research in order to create an interesting context and to show how important the arts were for socializing and for life-long cultural education at the time. This convention of artistic salons continued into the 20th century and exists even today in 'social club' culture in Japan based on hobby pursuits. There is work being done in Japan and elsewhere on intellectual and artistic networks in this period but our panel will focus on the material products these salons supported, particularly works held in the British Museum. Prof Nobuo Nakatani of Kansai Univ will focus on Osaka art and its relation to continental East Asia. Dr Akiko Yano of the British Museum will focus on painting circles and Andrew Gerstle of SOAS on kabuki and the production of prints, books and surimono.