“Momoyogusa”. A World of Things : Flowers of a Hundred Generations by Kamisaka Sekka. In 1901, the son of a Samurai family was Japan’s “chosen one” to reframe Japanese art for the Western eye.

Kamisaka Sekka was a Kyoto artist born into a Samurai family. He was the last, and greatest proponent of the traditional Rinpa style and was responsible for modernising and re-popularising the old school craft. Rinpa design focussed on design values and historical or natural motifs rather than detailed illustration of contemporary life. In Momoyogusa (A World of Things), Sekka fused these traditional Rinpa patterns with his knowledge of Art Nouveau to craft 60 unique woodcut prints. The series is now considered one of the greatest masterpieces of 20th-century Japanese design.

A World of Things came about by design. Sekka was chosen. At the turn of the 20th century, traditional Japanese styles were becoming unfashionable. Japan sought to fix this by selecting traditional artists with a view to infusing their art with Western modernism. Kamisaka Sekka was one of the artists they selected. In 1901, the Japanese government sent Sekka to Glasgow where he experienced the wild enthusiasm there for all things Japanese (Japonism) and was heavily influenced by Art Nouveau. He quickly worked out which facets of Japanese art would be most attractive to Western eyes. Returning to Japan, he taught in Kyoto and experimented with mixing Western styles into his otherwise traditional Japanese-style work.

He kept to what he knew intimately – traditional Japanese subject matter and and some elements of Rimpa painting. He used huge swathes of bright colour in his new images which seemed on the verge of being minimal patterns rather than actual pictures of a subject.

The results and their overall calming effect staggered people, both in Japan and in the West. Sekka’s new imagery took Japanese art to new levels of minimalism whilst their colours and patterns seemed almost to “pop”, giving the woodcuts an almost three-dimensional quality.

About 8 years after returning from Glasgow, Sekka produced Momoyogusa (A World of Things) in 1909. A unique East-West fusion of traditional Japanese Rimpa style with something else. Something only Sekka could do.

Included here are a few images from Sekka’s Chigusa: A Thousand Grasses, Kamisaka Sekka (1900). Evidence that Sekka was already travelling his unique minimal Rimpa style road, even before he travelled to Europe.

Chigusa: A Thousand Grasses, Kamisaka Sekka (1900).
Woman carrying Autumn leaves, from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Maple from Momoyogusa, from Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Autumnal hills with cloud, from Chigusa: A Thousand Grasses, Kamisaka Sekka (1900).
Chrysanthemums, from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Mount Fuji, from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Grasses, from Chigusa: A Thousand Grasses, Kamisaka Sekka (1900).
Two fans, from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Flowers, from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Water, rocks & reed, from Chigusa (A Thousand Grasses), Kamisaka Sekka (1900).
Blossom from Momoyogusa, from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Birds, from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Blossoms from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Deer from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Dog and snail from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Fan from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Fishing village from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Flower boat from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Flowers and leaves from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Untitled, from Chigusa (A Thousand Grasses), Kamisaka Sekka (1900).
Irises from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Hydrangea from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Green mountains from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Untitled, from Chigusa (A Thousand Grasses), Kamisaka Sekka (1900).
Untitled, from Chigusa (A Thousand Grasses), Kamisaka Sekka (1900).
Untitled, from Chigusa (A Thousand Grasses), Kamisaka Sekka (1900).
Untitled, from Chigusa (A Thousand Grasses), Kamisaka Sekka (1900).
Untitled, from Chigusa (A Thousand Grasses), Kamisaka Sekka (1900).
Untitled, from Chigusa (A Thousand Grasses), Kamisaka Sekka (1900).
Morning glories from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Ocean waves from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Ocean waves from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Path through the fields from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Samurai from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Sparrow and bamboo from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Tree and blossom from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Trees from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
Waves and sun from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).
White heron from Momoyogusa: Flowers of a Hundred Generations, Kamisaka Sekka (1909).

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