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by Phyllis Birnbaum
Faber & Faber  2007
Hardcover
352 pages
photos, illustrations
ISBN: 0865479755
Cover Price: $16.00
Language: English

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Glory in a Line
A Life of Foujita The Artist Caught Between East & West

This book is a biography of Japanese artist Tsuguharu Foujita, an artist and fascinating personality who is one of Japan's best known contemporary painters.

Controversially, he aided the Japanese military during World War II painting scenes of war, and postwar maintained a low profile expecting to face war crimes charges

Son of an Army doctor, he studied yoga at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts and then traveled to France to study European avant-garde and traveled in South America. His painting style became famous for combining Western and Japanese styles.

While the climate of nationalism and militarism was on the rise in Japan, he returned home in 1933. As the nation's most famous painter, Foujita joined in the fervor encouraging artists to assert their Japanese identity.

In 1938, he was hired by the Japanese Navy information Office to paint scenes of the Second Sino-Japanese War and in 1939 founded the Army Art Association and renounced French modernism.

On December 8, 1941 he was staying at the Saigon Hotel and heard aircraft roaring overhead, signalling the start of the Pacific War. Next, he was assigned to cover the Japanese Army advance to Singapore and afterwards visited Phnom Penh.

At the end of 1942 he announced he was breaking his ties with Western Art.

On New Year 1943, he claimed 100,000 visitors attended an exhibition of war paintings in Tokyo and confidentially stated: "...for many years to come, countless millions will inevitably be affected by these war paintings, and this must bring honor to our art world... We artists have all offered our right arms to the emperor. Our right arms must serve as guns, they must serve as swords.

The book includes two glossy photo sections. The first is black & white photos of Foujuta at various stages of his life. Warime photographs include returning to Tokyo in 1940, at home reading Signal magazine during 1942, exiting his air raid shelter circa 1944-45. The second section includes samples of his artwork includng Last Stand at Attu (1943) and Compatriots on Saipan Island Remain Faithful to the End (1945).

His most famous painting include:

Burning of Nanchang Airfield (1938)
Depicts the attack on Ching Yun Pu Airfield near Nanchang.

Battle on the Bank of the Halha, Nomonhan (1941)
Commissioned by retired Kwantung Army commander General Osugi, who was overall commander during the battle. For research, the Army brought Foujita to the battlefield to study the terrain and had their full cooperation. The painting portrays Japanese Army infantry at Bain Tsagn west of Nomonhan involved in a close quarters attacks using bayonets counterattacking Soviet BT-7 tanks during early July 1939. Osugi was heavily involved with the painting, suggesting modifications and revisions. 1.4m x 4.48m canvas.

Pearl Harbor
Painting of an aerial view of Pearl Harbor and Ford Island with a geyser of water exploding on Battleship Row.

The Yasuda Unit's Desperate Struggle: The New Guinea Front

Battle of Guadalcanal

Last Stand at Attu
Depicts the final stand of Japanese Army gyokusai against U.S. Army soldiers on Attu Island.

Compatriots on Saipan Island Remain Faithful to the End
This painting depicts the last stand of Japanese Army troops and civilians at Banadero (Suicide Cliff) in northern Saipan.

Review by Justin Taylan

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Last Updated
May 3, 2016


 
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