History of the Department
History of the Department of Aesthetics and Western Art History,
Faculty of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University
In our department we study two fields of art studies, i.e., aesthetics and Western art history. It has its origin in 1923 when the department of Aesthetics, the predecessor of our department, was inaugurated at the same time with the establishment of the Faculty of Law and Letters of Tohoku Imperial University. Since then the department has graduated over 350 students. Amongst them, more than 50 people have gone on to graduate level study. Our graduates have gone on to become educators, public officials, and mass communications staff, among numerous other vocations. Many of those who have completed graduate work are now active in museums and universities.
Abe, Jiro (1883-1959)
Abe Jiro (Imperial University of Tokyo, 1907) was called upon to become its first professor. Prior to taking up his post in Sendai, he was ordered to conduct research in aesthetics in Europe and departed to Europe in May of 1922. He returned to Japan in October of the following year, whereupon he was assigned to a professorship at the university, and began lecturing in aesthetics on the 27th of the same month. Abe is widely known as one of the leading writers in the field. As is expressed by the motto “von innen heraus”, the cornerstone of Abe’s aesthetics is his respect for the views of the individual. Abe published a concise translation of German aesthetician Theodore Lipps’ Grundzuge der Logik (1916), as well as a translation of Aesthetik (1917), a work based in Lipps’ famous discourse on Einfuhlung. Aesthetik in particular was the first work in aesthetics to exercise an influence on the world of philosophy. Abe was also a vigorous author. Beginning with Geijutsu no shakaiteki chii (The Social Position of the Arts, 1925), Tokugawa jidai no geijutsu to shakai (Art and Society of the Tokugawa Period, 1931), and Sekai bunka to Nihon bunka (World Culture and Japanese Culture, 1934), he published a great number of works.
On February 1st of 1923, Kojima Kikuo (Tokyo Imperial University, 1913) became the associate professor in Western art history. (From 1921 to the summer of 1926, he studied in Europe.) Whilst studying in Europe, Kojima encountered eminent scholars of art history such as Bode, Wollflin, Venturi, and Panofsky, and researched chiefly Classical and Renaissance art. His research on Leonardo da Vinci in particular is noted as being world class. In the spring of 1937, Professor Kojima left Sendai to become a resident professor of Tokyo Imperial University.
Following Professor Kojima’s departure, Murata Kiyoshi (Tohoku University,1932) returned from Europe, and became the senior lecturer of Tohoku Imperial University’s Western art history program. In 1950, with his submission of the three-volume set Inshoha bijutsuron (Essays on Impressionism), Murata obtained his doctorate. Although it is not published in its original form, several essays containing revisions of it have been released. Girishia no shinden (Greek Temples, 1944), which was published as a supplement to his dissertation, attracted even more attention. Murata’s studies in Greek art history were the first major scholarly efforts in Japan, where the filed had been previously limited to general surveys based on secondary sources. Murata’s methodology emphasized style, and was based on assessing the special formal characteristics of objects through direct observation. Out of this methodology came about his Manet, Degas (1937), as well as Seiyo kodai bijutsuron (Essays on Ancient Western Art, 1971), which was published in advance of his retirement. He found a collaborator for the study of Greece in Japan in Tokyo University of Education (later of Waseda University) Professor Sawayanagi Daigoro. Murata is said to have been a good-natured, magnanimous person with a sense of humor and the manner of an English gentleman. A level-minded character not given over to dwelling upon the trivial, he enchanted numerous students.
Nishida Hideho was associate professor at the time, and observed first hand Tamura’s love of the arts. “One could feel his devotion to and identification with various artists and works in his words, and at times in his youthful passion. …When he would use slides to move through an explanation of a work and analyze it, and then discuss the circumstances of its production as well as compare it with works by the same or other artists, one could feel the breadth of his knowledge, just as if a dam had burst and a torrent was flowing forth. Everything was focused on the one work- the object equaled depth of experience-and one could feel the sureness of Professor Murata’s object centered approach.” Even to people who have not been touched directly by Murata’s personality, Nishida’s description imparts his spirit such that we can feel as though we were there, too. Murata’s own words as recorded in Bunka (Culture, Vol.36, nos.1,2) also leave a strong impression. “When I made the decision to study at Tohoku University, it was because I wanted to receive the guidance of Professor Kojima, which apart from being quite natural to someone wishing to study art history, was because he had worked with Professor Abe Jiro, who valued ‘experience’ over all else.” Along with arousing a deep appreciation for Professor Murata’s academic style, his words evoke a scene of the great tradition of the aesthetics seminar room founded upon the example set by Abe Jiro and Kojima Kikuo.
Nishida, Hideo（1922― ）
Nishida Hideho (Tohoku University, 1946) became lecturer in aesthetics in March of 1950, following the retirement of Abe Jiro. In 1954, he became associate professor, and in April of Showa 1972, full professor. He studied under both Abe and Murata, and became a classical aesthetician in his own right with such essays as “Kant handanryoku hihan no kenkyu” (“A Critique of Kant’s Urteilungskraft”, in Tetsugaku kenkyu, Research on Philosophy), and “Raocon ronso” (“Debates on Laokoon”, in Bungakubu kenkyu nenpo, Bulletin of the Faculty of Literature). Nishida later penned a number of works on aesthetics, and moved in the direction of art historical research. Nishida came to Sendai because he was devoted the respect for the views of the individual, or “experientialism” as it might be termed, of Abe Jiro’s aesthetics, and had a strong interest in film and modern art. Yet although aesthetics, which renounces the concrete and quests for generalities, was indispensable to Nishida as the fundamental theory supporting his research, it was not a theory to which he could readily confine himself. For this reason, he turned to researching Kandinsky. He made a great contribution to our understanding of modern art by translating in rapid succession what might be called the manifesto of abstract painting, Uber das Geistige in der Kunst (Chusho geijutsuron-geijutsu ni okeru seishinntekina mono, 1958), Punkt und Linie zu Flache (Ten, men, sen– sho geijutsu no kijun, 1959), and Essays uber Kunst und Kunstler (Geijutsu to geijutsuka, 1962). From 1963 until 1965, he studied in Germany, where he developed concrete theories based on direct contact with Western art. In 1967, the French journal XXe siecle published what can be said to be the fruit of his research, “ Nenkanshi ‘Shokishi’ no hyoshie-hitaisho kaiga seitritsuki ni okeru shukyoteki kanjo no yakuwari” (“The Cover Illustration of the Blue Knight: the Role of Religious Sentiment During the Inception of Asymmetrical Painting”), and he became internationally known as a scholar of Kandinsky. However, Nishida’s research on modern art was not limited to Kandinsky; as is evidenced by his 1973 Kure- (Klee), he also produced significant work on Paul Klee. He also exerted himself in administrative affairs within the university. From Showa 1981-3, he held great responsibility as head of the Faculty of Literature. In March of 1986, he retired from the university.
Tanaka Hidemichi (University of Tokyo, 1966) came to us as a lecturer from the National Museum of Western Art in 1973, upon Murata Kiyoshi’s retirement. In 1976, he became associate professor, and professor in 1991. Tanaka dispensed with the question “what is the West?” asked by intellectuals since the Meiji period in order to develop new ideas and concepts in aesthetics. As a student, he concentrated in French literature, and devoted himself to the study of Andre Malraux. Following his graduation, he turned to art history, and began research on the 17th century French painter Georges de La Tour under Professor Yoshikawa Itsuji. From 1966-9, he studied in Strasbourg, and obtained his doctorate for his research on La Tour. His dissertation received international acclaim, and is still widely known as one of the key texts on La Tour. It was also published in Japanese in 1972, with the title La Tour yoru no sekai no sakuhin sekai. Beginning in 1969, Tanaka spent a year in Italy, where he embarked upon research on Italian Renaissance art. He undertook research on various Renaissance painters including Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, and presented new theories one after another. He subsequently published a number of works based on his conclusions. His chief works include Leonard da Vinci: geijutsu to shogai (Leonardo da Vinci: His Art and Life, 1978), Wakakihi no Michelangelo (The Early Years of Michelangelo, 1981), and Mikeranjero no sekaizo (Michelangelo’s Picture of the World, dissertation, 1999). Tanaka established a methodology of his own, “forumoloji-” (formology), which is presented in his book Forumoloji- kenkyu (Research on Formology, 1983). This methodology is based in the comparison and analysis of form, and inquires into the Notwendigkeit produced by the forms artists create. However, his wide-ranging view extends to considerations of civilization. At the base of his theories lie rebuttals to questions posed by Western culture, a culture with which Japan’s has become inextricably unified despite its continued heterogeneousness to Japanese culture. Beginning with Nihon bijutsu zenshi (A Complete History of Japanese Art, 1995), he has published in recent years a number of works related to Japanese art. His theories have been presented in various Western journals, including Artibus historiae and Gazette des beaux-arts. In March of 2005, he reitired from the university.
Matsuo, Masaru（1949― ）
Matsuo Masaru (University of Tokyo, 1972) came to the university as an associate professor in 1992, following Nishida Hideho’s retirement, prior to which he was associate professor at Seijo Gakuen. In 1997, he became a full professor. He was mentored by Professor Imamichi Tomonobu at Tokyo University, and studied orthodox aesthetics. His translation and research on Baumgarten’s Aesthetics (1997) is viewed as his representative work. He has reconsidered the roots of aesthetics from a variety of viewpoints. In 1999, Matsuo left to become a professor at Tokyo University of Fine Arts.
Ozaki Akihiro (Tohoku University, 1979) came to the university in 2000 as a professor from his post as professor at Hirosaki University following Matsuo Masaru’s departure in 1999. He works on Netherlandish painting, including research on Rembrandt.
In 2006 Haga Kyoko (University of Tokyo, 2001) came to the university as an associate professor. Her field is Greek and Roman Art History and Archaeology.