Third Thursday Lecture:Okyo – Towering Above and Reaching Beyond the Sea

Date: 15 September 2011, 6 – 7:30pm
Venue: Hostry, Norwich Cathedral, Norwich NR1 4EH
Tel: 01603 624349
Fax: 01603 625011
Organiser: Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures

Professor Josef Kyburz Research Fellow, National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris – This lecture looks at Maruyama Okyo (1733-1795), by conventional standards, one of the bright stars in the firmament of Japanese fine arts. Appreciated by patrons of both bourgeois and court society for the cool detachment and the refined manner of his style, he has gone down in history as a pioneer in the introduction of naturalism. There is considerably more to Okyo, however. Delving into his “unofficial” work, sketches from life and odd subjects of Chinese and Western inspiration, we discover an artist of hitherto unfathomed scale. If he was by no means the only one to explore European sources and techniques, none of his rangaku (Dutch studies) contemporaries can be said to equal his insight into foreign civilization. Beyond, Okyo may well count among those rarest of minds, capable of penetrating an alien, paradigmatically different culture to its innermost depth.

Professor Josef Kyburz is Senior Research Fellow at the French Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). An ethnologist at the outset, with extensive experience of field work on the religious life and beliefs of rural Japan, his research extends into the fields of the epistemology and cognitive anthropology, tackling the problem of cultural relativism, envisaging the relativity of perception and ‘reality’ in a comparative perspective.

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