Japanese Gallery (Honkan) Room 18 & 19
September 19, 2012 (Wed) - December 9, 2012 (Sun)
One hundred years ago, in December of the first year of the Taisho era (1912), 31 artworks by 24 Imperial Household Artists were donated to the Tokyo Imperial Household Museum (present-day Tokyo National Museum). These works came from 22 Imperial Household Artists who submitted donation applications in 1911 to the then Director General, Matano Migaku, as well as from the families of 2 Imperial Household Artists who wished to do the same but had died the year before.
Imperial Household Artists were appointed in the fine or decorative arts under an honors system existing before World War II. The title of Imperial Household Artist was used from 1890, although previously it had been “Artisans to the Imperial Household Ministry” and then “Artists to the Imperial Household Ministry.” Until the final appointments in 1944, a total of 79 artists were selected.
This system was closely connected to this museum, which from 1886 was part of the Imperial Household Ministry. According to selection regulations for Imperial Household Artists in 1918, artists were chosen by a committee convened by the Director General of the Imperial Household Museum, who then recommended the artists to the Minister of the Imperial Household.
The works donated in 1912 were in the genres of Japanese painting, sculpture, architecture, metalwork, ceramics, cloisonné, lacquerware, textiles, swords, and design, as well as in two new genres selected the year before, photography and Western painting. This meant that the donated works included all genres covered by the Imperial Household Artist system, except for seal engraving.
The year after the donation, a special exhibition was held, titled Donated Works of Imperial Household Artists and Works of Late Imperial Household Artists. This exhibition is the first time these objects have been displayed together for 99 years.