Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Dômoto Inshô (1891-1975) and Buddhist temple art in 20th century Japan
by Tsuchikane, Yasuko, Ph.D., Columbia University, 2009, 554; 3393612
Abstract (Summary)

By focusing on the works of a single painter, Dômoto Inshô (1891-1975), this study provides one of the first attempts to delineate the shift of patronage, production and reception of twentieth-century Buddhist temple art in Japan against the rapidly changing contemporary political, intellectual and cultural climate right before, during and after World War Two. Japan's modern practice of decorating historical temples with paintings and decorative art has been a vital creative arena for artists in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. However, unlike exhibition works, modern art installed in ancient and medieval temple sites has resisted historicization in the context of the period of its creation.

The study concentrates on Dômoto's career as a temple artist extraordinaire: the recipient of more temple commissions from a greater number of the most historically prestigious patrons than any other Japanese artist in the genre. Dômoto's temple art is distinguished from that of his peers primarily by the versatility of his styles, which range from neo-classical art derived from East Asian pictorial heritages to abstract art that he experimented with through his direct contact with the Paris-centered avant-garde circle of Informel.

Dômoto's temple art reflected the non-religious functions of Japanese temples in modern society, which they played in addition to their conventional roles as centers of worship. Dômoto believed in the potential of temple art to serve the public interest in Japan and elsewhere. This study unfolds in a two-part chronology spanning from 1925 to 1971. In the first phase, he and his major patron, the Shingon sect, collaborated on his Tôji project (1934) to help the state to propagate imperial ideology to the public under the increasingly intensified ultranationalism right before World War Two. His project at Saihôji (1969) exemplifies the second, postwar, phase of democratic Japan in which he subversively altered the classical appearance of the temple by installing modernistic abstract art in order to exploit the domestic and international cultural symbolism of the old Japanese temple as “tradition” and “Zen.”

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: McCormick, Melissa
School: Columbia University
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 71/02, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religious history, Art history, Design
Keywords: Buddhism, Decorative art, Domoto, Insho, Japan, Nationalism, Painting, Temple art
Publication Number: 3393612
ISBN: 978-1-109-60487-0
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