matazo kayama Study for female nude
7 min

Salome On The Runway: Fashionable Eroticism In The Paintings Of Matazō Kayama

7 min

Japanese artist Matazō Kayama (1927-2004) is often classified as a nihonga painter. Nihonga is a term that means paintings in the native style and thus, opposes yōga, the Western manner that appeared when the Japanese artists were allowed to study abroad. Yet, looking at some of Kayama's stunning paintings (e.g. Sad Deer, 1954), you'll probably label them yoga, and it won't be far from the truth. The artist blended different techniques and styles as many inventive painters did. His femmes fatales decorated with lace and gold prove him as a follower of both native traditions and European modernism that was, in its turn, inspired by Japanese art.

matazo kayama

Fig. 1. Matazō Kayama (

 matazo kayama Umi no Michi, Sea Road

Fig. 2. Umi no Michi, Sea Road (

matazo kayama  Folding screenFig. 3. Folding screen (

 matazo kayama moon

Fig. 4. Moon, 1978 (

matazo kayama winter paintingFig. 5. Winter, 1957 (

matazo kayama cranesFig. 6. Cranes, original title unknown (

matazo kayama painting cranesFig. 7. Cranes, original title unknown (

matazo kayama Birds in the snowFig. 8. Birds in the snow, original title unknown (

matazo kayama Sad Deer

Fig. 9. Sad Deer, 1954 (

matazo kayama Spring and autumn waves

Fig. 10. Spring and autumn waves, 1966 (

matazo kayama painting Thousand origami cranes

Fig. 11. Thousand origami cranes, 1970 (

 matazo kayama Nude woman with black roses

Fig. 12. Nude woman with black roses, 1976 (

Early Years And Studies

Kayama was born in Kyoto in a family of kimono designer Katsuo Kayama. He grew up among textile patterns in his father's studio and conveyed these intricate designs in his large-scale works afterward. Kayama started drawing at the age of 13 and enrolled in the painting department of Kyoto City University of Arts several years later. In 1944, he relocated to Tokyo and entered the Japanese painting department of Tokyo Fine Arts School. Soon, in 1945, he had to interrupt his studies due to the mobilization but managed to resume the following year. Despite his father's death at the end of the war, the artist continued to study at the university until graduation in 1949 and supported his mother and sisters in Kyoto. His teacher was Kyujin Yamamoto.

Kyujin Yamamoto, Ophelia on the WaterFig. 13. Kyujin Yamamoto, Ophelia on the Water (

Japanese Ophelia By Kayama’s Teacher

Yamamoto was a nihonga painter as well, and among his works, there's one the most illustrative for us to understand what nihonga really means. In 1926, Yamamoto created a beautiful image of dying Ophelia. And it's literally the illustration for Shakespeare's play, not the depiction of a drowning maiden typically resembling the character since the image is entitled Ophelia on the Water. Yet it's accomplished in a recognizable Japanese manner, with Ophelia looking like a Japanese maiden who's lost her reason due to her father's death and her lover's cruelty (the extent of violence and insolvability of conflicts in Shakespeare's works make nihonga illustrations pretty appropriate). Unlike the character of Millais' painting, Yamamoto's Ophelia doesn't drown. She miraculously floats in the air and reminds us of the sleeping beauty. The peacefulness of the picture may imply a notion that her madness was a revelation and her death - a unity with nature resulting in a Buddhist state of nirvana.

 Matazo Kayama. Nude woman with black roses

Fig. 14. Matazo Kayama. Nude woman with black roses, left part (

matazo kayama Nude on a folding screen

Fig. 15. Nude on a folding screen, original title unknown (

Back To Kayama

After a brief look at the works of Yamamoto, let's turn back to his gifted student Kayama. In 1949, he graduated with a degree in painting and, a year later, began participating in the exhibitions of The Association of Young Artists (Shinseisaku gakai), where he was awarded four times. Since 1958, Kayama was a face of modern Japanese art as he took part in many expositions abroad. In 1988, he became a professor at the Tokyo University of Arts. He was honored with many awards, among which was the Prize of the Ministry of Culture (1980).

matazo kayama Study for female nude

Fig. 16. Study for female nude, 1974 (

matazo kayama Study for female nude

Fig. 17. Study for female nude, 1975 (

matazo kayama Study for nude

Fig. 18. Study for nude (

matazo kayama matazo kayama Study for nude

Fig. 19. Study for nude (

matazo kayama nude painting

Fig. 20. Nude study, unfinished (

matazo kayama nude with cat

Fig. 21. Hashineko (

matazo kayama painting of a nude woth white cat

Fig. 22. Nude Woman Toneko no Study (

matazo kayama Nude woman

Fig. 23. Nude woman (

matazo kayama standing nude

Fig. 24. Study for female nude (

matazo kayama Study of white nude

Fig. 25. Study of white nude (

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