Essays : Yulia's Voyage to Japanese Art

Nonagase Banka
Nonagase Banka Beauty

Color on silk
136 x 40 cm / 189 x 49 cm

vol.07 Nonagase Banka, Beauty

The woman who is depicted on this almost life-sized painting is wearing a black kimono with motifs from Chinese mythology such as the Four Gods, the Kirin and the Tiger.
Standing with her back against the bright red sky, she carries a mysterious smile. Bold and mysterious, when seen in person, this work has quite a big impact!

I think this work alone is enough to convey the modernity of Nonagase Banka’s painting. After all, he studied abroad in Europe and was strongly influenced by Western art movements such as post-Impressionism, which he saw with his own eyes.
Although his style is very modern, I find it interesting that he used traditional Japanese painting motifs in many of his works. This is no wonder since his mid-teens, he studied painting with Nakagawa Rogetsu in Osaka and with Taniguchi Kokyo in Kyoto and went on to create works using Western perspective and methods.

Japanese paintings are usually drawn after a preliminary sketch, but in this work the underdrawing can be seen through almost like a pattern. In addition, it is painted with mineral pigments and gold color. There are many points that I think are Japanese painting-like, such as the way her hair is drawn, but I feel a sense of novelty from its composition and intense colors.

It seems that Banka had a “Haikara (fashionable)” youth, and there is even an anecdote that he frequently visited hanamachis (leisure districts), cafes and bars. There is also a story that he knew Takehisa Yumeji.

Like any artist who is paving the way for a new era, it seems that the works of Banka were not easily understood in the Japanese art world at that time. There are many works that are merely eccentric or novel, often reflecting the nature of their times and as such are not appreciated much by generations thereafter, but I think that Banka’s works are fresh, fun to look at, and have the power to draw you in.
The kimono in this work is quite deformed, so it is hard to tell whether its pattern is an embroidery or Yuzen (resist dyeing), but I feel a sense of modernism especially in the roses of these Chinese mythology inspired motifs.


Mademoiselle Yulia
Mademoiselle Yulia rose to prominence as a DJ and singer in her teens. In recent years, she has grown widely active as a kimono stylist, model, columnist, awards judge, and has become the face of numerous global campaigns of widely known brands. Yulia graduated from Kyoto University of the Arts in 2020 and styled the visual campaign for the Victoria & Albert Museum’s exhibition, Kimono -Kyoto to Catwalk-.