Willowy beauties, the sweet taste of melancholy, and lyricism characterize the art of Takehisa Yumeji (竹久夢二, 1884～1934, real name: Takehisa Mojiro), a leading figure of the Taisho Romanticism movement in Japan. “Yumeji-style” beauties and the lovely designs created by him won him great popularity among young women of his day and his drawing power has still persisted to this day. He was a really prolific artist who produced more than 10,000 works that range from Japanese-style paintings, oil paintings, illustrations for books and covers, woodblock prints, commercial designs and stationary designs to poetry. There are more than five museums and galleries dedicated to him throughout the country. I dropped in at one of the largest ones last month when I went to Gunma prefecture.
Takehisa Yumeji Ikaho Museum (竹久夢二伊香保記念館） in Gunma prefecture
Located near Lake Haruna, Ikaho（伊香保） is an atmospheric hot spring spa, blessed with exceptional hot water. Its history dates back to more than 1000 years. Takehisa Yumeji loved and visited Ikaho frequently. The town is famous for a long stone stairway that is lined with inns and souvenir shops. He had a small atelier by the lake. Recently his wooden modest atelier has been reconstructed at the place where it originally stood. In the park surrounding the building, the song "Yoimachigusa, the evening-primrose", the lyrics of which he wrote, is played softly all day long.
Lake Haruna (榛名湖） and Mt.Haruna-fuji (1390.3m 榛名冨士）
榛名山賦, 1931 Mt. Haruna is featured in the painting.
His small atelier has been reconstructed. ↑ ↓
Yumeji's willowy beauties were modeled on real women. Though he was talented and versatile, I think that he was a hopeless womanizer. The photos you can see below are some of the women he loved. All of them have thin bodies and pretty faces. They must have been his muses.
left: Tamaki, his wife(they divorced). center: Hikono, his most beloved sweetheart. right: Oyo, Yumeji lived with her for several years.
Interestingly, he is considered an initiator of Kawaii culture, one of the characteristic trends of modern Japan. According to Keiko Nakamura, curator of Yayoi Museum and Takehisa Yumeji Museum(Tokyo) and one of the top researchers on kawaii culture, Yumeji was a pioneer of Japanese fancy goods which usually have kawaii designs on them. He also contributed to connecting people's everyday lives to art. *1
Froshiki (wrapping cloth) designed by Takehisa Yumeji ↑
Ever since the efforts Yumeji made 100 years ago, Japanese fancy and stationary goods, particularly for young female consumers, have always trended toward being kawaii and many adorable characters and designs have been created by other artists. For example, Sanrio Company, the creator of the brand Hello Kitty, had long adopted Setsuko Tamura's kawaii designs for their fancy goods and stationary pieces before the saccharine cash cat was born in 1974. *2
The Tamura Setsuko Exhibition is now being held at the museum.
He named himself "Yumeji" which includes "yume" meaning dreams. Come to think of it, he must have had a big dream to realize what he'd dreamed of. "Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths."*3 Now he's become a myth leaving an immense variety of works infused with his labyrinth-like dreams.
center: Mt.Akagi (1828m)
*1*2 from the exhibition,「大正から始まった日本のＫａｗａｉｉ（カワイイ）展」
*3 Joseph Campbell
"Rings of Trust" by Kittie Howard, my fellow blogger, launches today!! It is available now on Amazon. This is her second novel. Congratulations, Kittie!!