Art historical books provide certain conventional appraisals on Maruyama Ōkyo, a painter active in Kyoto in the eighteenth-century Japan. One argues that through learning Western art works, Ōkyo pioneered an entirely new realistic style reflective of the objectivism and scientific spirit of his time. A second points out that he was widely appreciated by ordinary Kyoto residents. Some scholars even argue that Ōkyo's works are expressive of their time, particularly in revealing the interest of the newly rich in the things around them at that time. These comments concern not only Ōkyo's art but also reflect widely held views of Edo painting history. However, these appraisals should be further examined. This paper will examine the origins and the development of these views and discuss the differences in writing strategies between specialized research studies and art survey books directed to the general public.
This paper includes the following topics: “The appraisal of Ōkyo and his representative works,” “The initial stage of the arguments for the early modern art history,” “Realism, citizens, and modernity: the arguments of the 1960's and 70's,” and “New views not yet reflected in the survey books.” I will first examine several survey books to shape the generally accepted view about Ōkyo and his time. Then I will compare several art historical books written in the early twentieth century, including the works by Ernest Francisco Fenollosa, Okakura Tenshin, Fujioka Sakutarō, and an official version of art history published by the Japanese government, and identify particular perspectives on Ōkyo. Following that is a discussion on how these discourses further developed in the 1960's and 70's. I will argue that although new research studies present a much more complex views of Edo art history, the simplified view, in which early modern East Asian art is evaluated through Western ways of thinking, still prevails in most of the survey texts.