Inter-Asia Cultural Studies: Movements

17.1 visual essay
17.1 visual essay



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  »  Issues Contents  2013-09-13 New Realism Art as double projects in the Japanese postwar era
New Realism Art as double projects in the Japanese postwar era
IKEGAMI Yoshihiko


In the Japanese postwar era, many artists began to paint realism art not only motivated by communism but by the hopes to build a new nation. Among those works, “Red Flag” (Figure1) painted by Uchida Iwao is the most famous one. This picture expresses the workers struggle, as is obviously seen, led by communist party. The painter set out for the spot where workers went on a strike, and sketched each participant. This picture painted in 1948 showed the typical way of social realism with its vigorous vertical force mixed with the horizontal seeking gaze of a girl. It represents not only the hopes of workers, but the feelings of freedom with the strong will to construct a new society, a reborn Japan that is entirely different from the war regime. Many artists shared these climates. It was a matter of course that they adopted the method of realism.
        The history did not develop in a flat way. These feelings soon turned into those of despair and difficulty because Japan was soon involved in a cold war just as the whole world was so. The US military force that occupied Japan changed their policy to drive Japan an anti communism side and made Japan restore the old regime, which betrayed people’s hope to construct a new better world. At the same time Stalin, as a name of Cominform, commanded Japanese Communist Party (JPC) to rise up an armed struggle against occupying force and ruling class--a command that was also accelerated by New China especially Liu Shao Qi.
        That was a crucial time. As is often, even today, misunderstood, this was not a problem of JCP alone. All people were involved into this process irrelevant to whether one is a communist or not. It was a grave matter of course of Japanese postwar regime. These affaires were and are usually interpreted by the term of cold war, but the reality was that even the ordinary the people who hoped for peace and the stability of life were involved and concerned. In fact, this period was the turning point of the history, although many events were broken into mere pieces of unrelated episodes, only to be interpreted by political terms.
        Many artists were inevitably brought into this process. At that time, many workers and citizens formed various small groups and engaged in many kinds of activities, creating poems, paintings, songs, which were called circle movements. Artists also took part in these movements. They joined the workers circle, taught theme how to paint and learned from workers what to paint.
Author’s biography
Ikegami Yoshihiko [池上善彥] (1956-), joined the editorial office of Gendai-Shiso [現代思想] in 1991. From 1994 onwards, he served as the chief editor until 2010. Recent publication (in Japanese) is Twenty Years in Gendai-Shiso [現代思想の20年] (2012). Papers include “Circular Movements in the Post-War Japan: Tasks to Open A Third Space” [戦後日本のサークル運動ー第三の空間を開く作業ー] (2008), “A Free Space and New Subjectivity” [自由空間和新的主體] (2009), “Stalinist Culture in Post-War Japan” [戦後日本におけるスターリン文化] (2010), and “War, Revolution and Art” (2012).

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