Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
Autumn 2007, vol 5 no 3


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Katsuda Tetsu

Beauty & Christmas Tree

Painting on silk in mineral pigments, mounted as a framed panel, depicting a young beauty dressed in a kimono beside a decorated Christmas tree. Signed on the lower right by the artist: Tetsu Hitsu or Brushed by Tetsu, and sealed (Katsuda Tetsu, the go or art name of Katsuda Tetsuzo, 1896 - 1980). Early Showa Era, circa 1930 - 1936.

Born in Kyoto, Katsuda Tetsu first studied Western Painting at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, before transferring to the Nihonga Department. Later he entered the Kyoto Municipal Special School for Painting (Kyoto Shiritsu Kaiga Senmon Gakko), and upon graduation became a student of Yamamoto Shunkyo. His major focus was historical painting and bijinga or paintings of beautiful women. His first acceptance at a government sponsored exhibition came with the 7th Teiten in 1926, and he continued to exhibit at the Teiten annually through 1934. In 1929 and 1931 at both the 10th and 12th Teiten his paintings took the tokusen or highest honors. In 1936 Katsuda became a professor at the Kyoto City School of Craft (Kyoto Shiritsu Kogei Gakko). He exhibited at the 1st and 2nd Shin-Bunten in 1937 and 1938, and then at the Hoshukuten in 1940. After the War he participated in the Nitten, becoming a judge for the show in 1960. In 1980 the City of Kyoto honored him with an award for distinguished cultural services.

A review of Katsuda Tetsu's exhibition paintings shows the first of his bijinga of fusion type (beauties with chic Western associations) at the 11th Teiten in 1930. Another was shown at the 14th Teiten in 1933. By the end of the decade his Hoshukuten painting, Ame, pairs a traditional and modern bijin crossing paths in the rain, though the mood and style of the painting is much darker. In 1933 Enomoto Chikatoshi exhibited at the Teiten a large panel titled Yo-Yo on a similar theme, with two bijin playing intently with a yo-yo next to a Christmas tree. It seems likely that this painting dates from around that time.

For one of his more traditional bijinga, c.f. Unexplored Avenues of Japanese Painting, page 86, plate 78.

Katsuda Tetsu pairs a brightly dressed beauty with a decorated Christmas tree. Wearing pearl earrings and her hair in bobbed Western fashion, this beauty's dress is at once traditional and boldly modern. A spreading shadow of grey suggests the evergreen's edge, and heavy white bars of dripping gofun or clam shell gesso add an abstract wedding cake quality to the branches. Spidery white tinsel and an odd mixture of mica glazed ornaments blanket the tree. What was foreign and new brought a sense of excitement to life in modernizing Japan. Often it was perceived as chic, though occasionally as here one suspects that it made people turn their heads and stare. Katsuda seems to be gently amused by his elegant bijin and her new holiday ornament.

24 1/5" high x 25 1/8" wide, inclusive of frame.
15 7/8" high x 16 5/8" wide, painting dimension.


Copyright 2007: Simply Haiku