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Sensô Sakusen Kirokuga (War Campaign Documentary Painting): Japan's National Imagery of the "Holy War," 1937-1945

Tsuruya, Mayu (2006) Sensô Sakusen Kirokuga (War Campaign Documentary Painting): Japan's National Imagery of the "Holy War," 1937-1945. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation is the first monographic study in any language of Japan's official war painting produced during the second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 through the Pacific War in 1945. This genre is known as sensô sakusen kirokuga (war campaign documentary painting). Japan's army and navy commissioned noted Japanese painters to record war campaigns on a monumental scale. Military officials favored yôga (Western-style painting) for its strength in depicting scenes in realistic detail over nihonga (Japanese-style painting). The military gave unprecedented commissions to yôga painters despite the fact that Japan was fighting the "materialist" West. Large military exhibitions exposed these paintings to civilians. Officials attached national importance to war documentary paintings by publicizing that the Emperor had inspected them in the Imperial Palace.This study attempts to analyze postwar Japanese reluctance to tackle war documentary painting by examining its controversial and unsettling nature. The art community has been hesitant to reflect on its alignment with the regime by relegating responsibility for wartime collaboration to individual artists. That hesitance has resulted in a critical gap in the history of modern Japanese art. This study attempts to fill the void by examining artistic and political circumstances surrounding war documentary painting from three perspectives as follows.(1) Art historical significance: Yôga war documentary paintings offer a record of yôga's development since the Meiji period. Critics say that yôga's expression during the war was exceptional, but I show it was consistent with yôga's history.(2) Nationalistic pragmatism toward art: Modern Japanese leaders were often motivated by nationalism. This study illustrates that the alliance forged between the wartime regime and the art community was a continuation of Meiji governing tradition.(3) Ideological and propaganda aspects: By analyzing documentary paintings of what officials called the "Holy War" (Seisen) of 1937-1945, this study demonstrates central propaganda mechanisms in the images. Without a single portrayal of the Emperor, Japanese war documentary painting expressed the absolute importance of the imperial order over the individual.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairRimer, J Thomasrimer@pitt.eduRIMER
Committee MemberMcCloskey, Barbarabmcc@pitt.eduBMCC
Committee MemberHopper,
Committee MemberGerhart, Karen Mkgerhart@pitt.eduKGERHART
Committee MemberLinduff, Katheryn Mlinduff@pitt.eduLINDUFF
Date: 6 July 2006
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 26 April 2005
Approval Date: 6 July 2006
Submission Date: 19 August 2005
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History of Art and Architecture
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: American occupation; emperor; Fujita Tsuguji; gyokusai; Meiji seitoku kaigakan; panorama
Other ID:, etd-08192005-082911
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:00
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:49


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