Creative Collaborations: Salons and Networks in Kyoto and Osaka 1780–1880

Principal Investigators

Yano Akiko (British Museum)

Akama Ryo (立命館大学)


Rosina Buckland (British Museum)

Alfred Haft (British Museum)

Timothy Clark (British Museum, emeritus)

Andrew Gerstle (SOAS University of London, emeritus)

Nakatani Nobuo (関西大学名誉教授)

Hirai Yoshinobu(国立京都近代美術館)

Associate Investigators

Akeo Keizō(大阪商業大学)

Ida Tarō(近畿大学)

Iwasa Shin’ichi(大阪歴史博物館)

John Carpenter (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Michael Kinski (Frankfurt University)

Bettina Gramlich-Oka(上智大学)

Scott Johnson(関西大学名誉教授)

Sugimoto Yoshihisa(東北大学)

Tsukuda Ikki(一茶庵家元)

Ellis Tinios (Leeds University, emeritus)

Paul Berry(関西外国語大学名誉教授)

Anna Beerens (Japanese Art Program, Brill; formerly Leiden University)

Matsuba Ryōko (Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures/University of East Anglia)

Yamamoto Yukari(多摩美術大学)

Yamamoto Yoshitaka(国文学研究資料館)

Yokoya Ken’ichirō(大津市歴史博物館)


The project members will investigate the impact, culturally and socially, of artistic salons and the collective creation of art (gassaku) in early-modern Japanese society, which has rarely been addressed in previous scholarship. In particular, the focus will be on the Kyoto and Osaka region during 1780–1880, another underexplored area in Japanese cultural history studies compared with that of Edo/Tokyo. The collective creation of art in the Edo period was often carried out in the context of cultural group activities. The products of these early modern collaborations survive in considerable numbers, most commonly taking the forms of paintings, surimono and illustrated books. Many of them were produced within the connections and networks of poetry (haikai, kyōka) circles and artists. Widespread participation in the arts is evident. People from all walks of life, both women and men, professionals and amateurs interacted in the ‘arts for pleasure’ (yūgei) in the 18th–19th centuries, joining circles not simply as consumers but, more importantly, as active creators under a pseudonym as an artist/poet.

The heart of this project is the creation of a large online database, maintained by the Art Research Center (ARC) Ritsumeikan University. It will record the images of and transcribed text from the British Museum’s (BM) 3,000 surimono, 500 paintings and 100 illustrated book titles, one of the most important Kyoto-Osaka collections outside Japan. In addition, Kansai University’s (KU) surimono and paintings and the paintings in the Paul Berry private collection in Kyoto will be incorporated. These hitherto rarely noticed art objects in Japanese and UK collections will be digitised and put together under the rubric of ‘collaborative art’ for the first time. The project’s time frame of 1780-1880 is driven by the concentration of sources within the corpus. The online database will serve as an effective tool for the research members to answer the following research questions:

Q1. Who were the participants of these cultural groups and what types of circles existed?

Q2. What were the connections between the members of a group, and what might their connections have been with other groups or societies? How widely did the networks extend?

Q3. How does an understanding of these participants, circles and networks change our interpretation and presentation of the artworks produced through such activities?

We will delve into both known and hitherto unknown ‘ordinary’ people’s cultural participation and assess its impact on art and literary production, society, aesthetics and consciousness of identity. It is clear from initial investigations that the extent of people’s connections through the arts compels us to reassess the nature of the feudal status system in practice. By fostering a lively social environment and enabling sophisticated forms of communication locally, these circles connected through informal and formal networks with other parts of the country. We hypothesise that this extensive system established what we can call an episteme of ‘salon culture’ that defines a significant aspect of early modern Japan.