Captured Buddha: Kawabata Ryūshi's Rakuyō kōryaku and Japanese War Painting

Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 6:30 p.m.
Recital Hall

In this lecture, Gregory Levine takes up the possible ambitions and dilemmas of picturing in the Japanese Nihonga painter Kawabata Ryūshi’s (1886-1966) work, The Capture of Luoyang (Rakuyō kōryaku, 1944; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo). Levine will consider the circumstances, scenographies, and expressive intensities of Japanese war propaganda painting of the 1930s-1940s, but he will turn from the shock-and-awe of many such paintings to Kawabata’s elision of explicit violence, the painting's possible elegiac tone, and the significance of its representation of the Fengxian Temple icon of Vairocana at the Chinese Buddhist grottoes at Longmen.

The question of empire has to be dealt with, but rather than fixing upon Kawabata’s intentions, complicity, or the politics of his formulation of Nihonga, Levine will touch upon Japanese colonial scholarship of Chinese Buddhist sites and the deployment of such sites in painting and photography as a trope of Japanese empire and pan-Asianist ideology. The exhibition of Kawabata’s painting in 1945, meanwhile, may confront us with the viewing of art in aftermath and picturing’s resistance to simple historical narrative.


Co-sponsored by the Department of Art History, Department of Religious Studies, and Japanese Studies in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, Case Western Reserve University as well as the Art Department Baldwin Fund and the East Asian Studies Program at Oberlin College.