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


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Miki Suizan

Fair Wind

Painting on silk in mineral pigments mounted as a framed panel, depicting two young women in fashionable Western dresses and hats on the prow of a sailing yacht. Signed on the lower left side by the artist: Suizan, and sealed (Miki Suizan, the go or art name of Miki Saiichiro, 1887 - 1957). Showa 8 or 1933.

Titled: Junpu or Fair Wind, this painting was first exhibited at the 14th Teiten in 1933. It is illustrated in the Nittenshi, volume 11, page 145, number 274.

Born in the town of Yashiro in Hyogo Prefecture, Miki Suizan went to Kyoto in 1903 to study painting under Takeuchi Seiho. Ten years later, Miki first had a painting accepted at the government sponsored exhibitions (at the 7th Bunten in 1913). Subsequently he continued to exhibit at the Bunten and Teiten, being accorded mukansa or non-vetted status with the 13th Teiten in 1932. This mukansa recognition was reserved for artists who contributed greatly to contemporary painting over the course of many years, and allowed Suizan to exhibit his work freely at the official exhibitions without the usual application and vetting process. In 1924 and 1925 Sato Shotaro of Kyoto published two sets of oban format prints by Miki Suizan, of which six were of bijin or beauties and the rest landscapes. These woodblock prints were included in an exhibition of ten contemporary print artists in Toledo, Ohio in 1930. However Miki Suizan created no other prints and his artistic fame rests on his paintings. These focus primarily on bijinga or paintings of beauties, and images of daily life in the ukiyo-e tradition. After the War, Miki spent the years from 1952 to 1957 in the United States, showing at individual exhibits focusing on bijinga.

Miki Suizan's work is in the collection of the Tokyo Museum of Modern Art and the Kyoto Museum of Modern Art. His 1934 Teiten and 1939 Shin-Bunten paintings are in the collection of the National Museum of Korea, and are illustrated in the Kyoto National Museum of Modern Art catalogue, Japanese Modern Art Collection from the National Museum of Korea, numbers 30 and 31.

With Fair Wind, Miki Suizan looks beyond the idealized images typical of traditional ukiyo-e and paints portraits. These chic young women are real figures, sailing on a yacht with the hills of an actual landscape in the distance. The composition of the painting is inherently dramatic, the figures and sail filling the left and central foreground. As their eyes are drawn to the side and one waves to friends outside the frame of the painting, so the viewer imagines another boat sailing in the warm breeze. The lighting highlights the movement and drama of the scene: shafts of sunlight illumine the pair and break through clouds to the water in the distance. This practically cinematic realism combines the genres of bijinga and landscape, and marks a fresh direction in Japanese painting of the period.

95 1/8" high x 75 3/8" wide, inclusive of frame.
83 1/8" high x 63 1/4" wide, painting dimension.


Copyright 2007: Simply Haiku