Through Japanese eyes

Lindisfarne Castle in the snow, by Takumasa Ono. ©NTPL/Takusama Ono

Takumasa Ono is an artist working in two traditions.

View of Mt Fuji from downtown Edo, by Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858), at Cragside, Northumberland. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

On the one hand his work is reminiscent of the ukiyo-e school of Japanese printmaking, with its dramatic perspectives, striking silhouettes, and sensitivity to the seasons.

Belton House, by Takumasa Ono. ©NTPL/Takusama Ono

On the other hand his pictures remind one of the British tradition of country house views, showing the house as the focal point of the landscape.

Belton House, English School, c. 1720. Acquired with the help of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, 1984. ©NTPL/John Hammond

For a number of years now Mr Ono has been travelling around Britain making ‘portrait’s of National Trust properties. Each picture is a highly personal take on a particular place.

Woolsthorpe Manor (Isaac Newton's birthplace), by Takumasa Ono. ©NTPL/Takumasa Ono

Mr Ono is almost like one of those eighteenth century travellers seeking out picturesque views to sketch and paint.

A garden in spring, by Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858), at Cragside, Northumberland. ©NTPL/Derrick E. Witty

But instead of using a Claude glass to give a classical tinge to the view, he brings a subtle Japanese perspective to the image. In Japan, too, there was a tradition of making pictures of ‘famous places’.

Lyme Park in the snow, by Takumasa Ono. ©NTPL/Takumasa Ono

This year Mr Ono will be showing his work at the following National Trust properties:

  • 30 April – 18 May: Ickworth House (Suffolk)
  • 28 May – 13 June: Dinefwr Park and Castle (Carmarthenshire)
  • 26 June – 11 July: Hanbury Hall (Worcestershire)
  • 23 July – 6 August: Speke Hall (Liverpool)
  • 18 August – 5 September: Baddesley Clinton (Warwickshire)
  • 8 September – 26 September: Wightwick Manor (West Midlands)

Farmers working in rice fields in the rain, by Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858), at Scotney Castle, Kent. ©NTPL/John Hammond

Prints can also be purchased directly through his website. An interview with Mr Ono in The Artist can be read here.

Barbara of It’s About Time has just posted some beautiful photographs of Lindisfarne Castle (the Ono print of which is at the top of this post).

10 Responses to “Through Japanese eyes”

  1. columnist Says:

    Well, now is an example of my own subjective view of an innate sense of beauty. Whilst I believe I have an open mind about art, my view about it is obviously affected by what I consider to be beautiful; I am very much in favour of that generated by the likes of Hiroshige, but very luke warm on Onosan’s renderings of British country houses, (which I find too child-like, almost cartoonish). This proves the point in my blog post, but I hope it doesn’t offend!

  2. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Well, regardless of who you prefer, at least the juxtaposition of Mr Ono’s work with Hiroshige’s has made you think about how you assess beauty (in conjunction with your own earlier post) :)

    Interestingly, there is a long tradition of childlike humour in Japanese art and culture, which is sometimes difficult to appreciate by us westerners, with our conception of art as something almost sacred. Even respected masters like Hiroshige and Hokusai often added elements of slapstick and visual or verbal puns to their work.

  3. littleaugury Says:

    These are splendid. You and Columnist are both highly revered at littleaugury, I find the childlike quality to be more nostalgic- illustrations from the old Book Trails(1920’s) of my Mother’s I had growing up-perhaps this is why I like these so. They have a snowglobe quality to them, I immediately see your suggestion of the humour inserted into Japanese art. I find both O and H to be pleasing-in very different terms. By taking the overwhelming architectural details of the properties and the principles of his art and merging them into something quite original -is, I find-what it’s all about. With success of course. My art adviser told me early on to never refer to anything in art as cute-It was a cut direct as they say- But rather say whimsical, spontaneous, humourous. It helped me appreciate my own attempts while I applied my hand, PGT

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Gaye, Yes there does seem to be someting akin to Edwardian illustration in Mr Ono’s work – but then Edwardian illustrators were probably influenced by Japanese prints!

    And it is very interesting that your art adviser preferred ‘whimsical’ over ‘cute': I think this illustrates our western embarrassment about letting ‘life’ into ‘art’. In Japan those boundaries seem to be slightly more fluid. The refined beauties of Utamaro have an element of cuteness, while the cute toys of Hello Kitty have an element of refined design – they are both part of the same continuum.

  5. Janet Says:

    Oh, I do like these. There is a freshness to them. It is always good to look at the familiar through foreign eyes.

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Janet, Indeed. Perhaps that is why Mr Ono’s work appeals to me, since I look at Britain through foreign (Dutch) eyes too – although I have lived here for so long now that Holland seems more foreign to me than England.

  7. le style et la matière Says:

    These are utterly charming!
    How true that we can glean further information from commentaries; I had wondered about your name! The same is true for me with the US and France, though something fundamental remains. Maybe, in yet another way, as you said else where “the past is all around us.”

  8. le style et la matière Says:

    P.S. I could not get to Ono’s website through your link!

  9. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Le Style, yes God is in the comments, as Mies van der Rohe might have said :)

    Perhaps that is why I instinctively like Japanese art: Japanese forms wrapped in Chinese forms wrapped in European forms.

    I have corrected the link, apologies for that.

  10. le style et la matière Says:

    Thank you !

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