R.C. Matsuyama, Relaxing on the Thames, Hampton Court - 1928 pen & ink drawing


An original 1928 pen & ink drawing, R.C. Matsuyama Relaxing on the Thames, Hampton Court.

A deft sketch dating from the 1920s by Japanese artist in London Ryuson Chuzo Matsuyama (1880-1954). Matsuyama was one of a significant group of Japanese artists working in London in the early 20th century, which also included Yoshio Markino and Urushibara Mokuchu.

Inscribed and dated lower right.
In good condition for its age. The corners of the paper are rounded, as shown. The picture may have minor imperfections, such as slight marks, toning, foxing, creasing or pinholes, commensurate with age. Please see photos for detail. There are historic adhesive and paper remnants to the corners of the paper on the verso.
12.1cm x 16.7cm.

This picture is one of an interesting collection of drawings by Matsuyama that we have for sale, which reflect the experiences of a Japanese man living in England in the inter-war years. The pictures show Matsuyama’s response to quintessentially English subjects, from iconic views in central London to rural vistas in Surrey and West Sussex - many populated by figures in 1920s dress. The drawings hint at Matsuyama’s artistic training in Tokyo, but interestingly, in contrast to that of some of his better-known compatriots, Matsuyama’s style was heavily influenced by the British watercolour tradition.

Ryuson Chuzo Matsuyama (1880-1954) was born in Aomori, Japan. He received artistic training in a broad range of media, including an introduction to watercolour in Tokyo. Around the age of thirty, in 1911, he travelled to England to develop his watercolour practice. Settling in London, in 1914 he married in Chelsea an Englishwoman, Mabel Davies, securing, it seems, his long term interests in this country. Unlike the majority of the Japanese community, who returned home as a result of anti-Japanese feeling during the Second Sino-Japanese War and World War Two, Matsuyama remained in Britain, becoming a naturalised British Citizen in 1947.

Matsuyama studied at the Chelsea School of Art, while also working as a decorative painter, restorer and lacquer repairer. From 1926 he earned his living working full time as a theatrical and scene painter in London's West End. The sights of London inspired his art, but his favoured subject came to be the English countryside, especially that around Dorking and his home in Holmwood.

Matsuyama exhibited widely in the Japanese community, such as at the Japanese Club in Cavendish Square, where exhibitors included Frank Brangwyn and George Clausen - supporters of the Japanese artists. He was also an active and successful member of the British art world, exhibiting from 1916 at the Royal Academy, Royal Scottish Academy, National Portrait Society and regional art galleries. He was a member of the Holborn artists’ society and was elected an Associate of the British Watercolour Society – an honour that, shamefully, he was asked to resign in 1947 in the aftermath of World War Two.

The particularities of Japanese migration into Britain at the turn of the century provide an interesting backdrop to Matsuyama’s work. At that time there was a desire within the Japanese community in Britain to bridge East and West. There was a strong sense of pride in Japanese heritage, whilst also an appreciation of the traditionally British values of a sense of ‘fair play’ and ‘minding one’s business’. The apparent Britishness of Matsuyama’s work seems to embody this ‘compatibility’ of values, and could be considered a celebration of the fact that, on the whole, the Japanese community assimilated successfully into British society and, in turn, Britain was a welcoming and tolerant host.

Text copyright © 2019 Somerset & Wood Fine Art Ltd. All rights reserved.

Product code: JP-373

Share this Product