The art of happiness: Rediscover the child in you

  • Furquan Ameen Siddiqui, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 02, 2016 12:15 IST
Takeshi Motai’s ‘Gorsh the Cellist’. (Saumya Khandelwal / HT & The Japan Foundation)

“When I am painting children, I feel as if I am painting my own childhood.” Chihiro Iwasaki, the award winning Japanese artist and illustrator of children’s books, had once said of her ceaseless endeavour of painting children. An ongoing exhibition ‘Chihiro Iwasaki and Picture Books of Japan’, held in collaboration by the Chihiro Art Museum in Japan and The Japan Foundation in Delhi present a selection of famous Iwasaki paintings that capture moments in the life of children — from first graders walking in a single file to children running around or playing musical instruments.

he cover illustration for ‘The Crane’s Reward’ (1966), a story of a crane saved by an old man on a snowy day, who then transforms into a young girl and comes to live with the elderly couple. (Saumya Khandelwal / HT & The Japan Foundation)

“Through this exhibition, we hope the audience will be introduced to Iwasaki’s works, as well as those of other acclaimed picture book artists from Japan. The idea is to create awareness about their beautiful works, that have brought great joy to the people of Japan and the world and inheriting their sincere wish for peace for children across the world,” says Misako Futsuki, director of Arts & Cultural Exchange, The Japan Foundation.

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First graders with satchels walking in single file, 1966, Chihiro Iwasaki . (Saumya Khandelwal / HT & The Japan Foundation)

Visitors at the exhibition Chihiro Iwasaki and Picture Books of Japan. (Saumya Khandelwal / HT & The Japan Foundation)

On December 15, when a Google doodle celebrated the magical world of boys and girls on what would have been Iwasaki’s 97th birthday, the exhibition in the capital brought her whimsical style of water colouring to India. Her works combine a unique style of expression by mixing techniques from Western watercolour painting with those of traditional Japanese and Chinese paintings in India Ink. Iwasaki authored more than 30 picture books between her first in 1956 and her death in 1974. Covering a wide range of themes from Japanese folk tales to fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen, and war, she created well over 9,000 artworks, some of which were discovered as recently as in 2014.

Eighth century picture scroll ‘E-ingakyo’. (Saumya Khandelwal / HT & The Japan Foundation)

Iwasaki’s 1973 painting from ‘Children in the Flames of War’, inspired by the Vietnam War. (Saumya Khandelwal / HT & The Japan Foundation)

Iwasaki won many awards, including one at the Leipzig Book Fair in Germany for ‘Senka no Naka no Kodomo-tachi’ (Children in the Flames of War) in 1974, inspired by the Vietnam War. Though herself scarred by war, Iwasaki always believed in a better world. She was especially concerned with providing a peaceful future for all children, a desire which finds mention on the art museum website.

Iwasaki’s ‘Running Children’ (1969). (Saumya Khandelwal / HT & The Japan Foundation)

Takeshi Motai’s ‘Gorsh the Cellist’. (Saumya Khandelwal / HT & The Japan Foundation)

The exhibition also presents the works of five other acclaimed Japanese picture book artists, including those by Takeshi Motai, Yasuo Segawa and Shinta Cho. Motai’s Gorsh the Cellist, a story of a cellist practicing for a concert and Cho’s Pontara, the Boy with a Bouncy Head deserve special mention. Another section of the exhibition takes you through the history of Japanese picture books, with exhibits ranging from 8th century picture scrolls to works from the Showa era — the golden age of children’s books between 1926 to 1989.

Shinta Cho’s ‘Pontara, The Boy with a Bouncy Head’. (Saumya Khandelwal / HT & The Japan Foundation)

Journey through this colourful and lively world of picture books to rediscover the child in you.

What: Chihiro Iwasaki and Picture Books of Japan
The Japan Foundation, 5A, Ring Road, Lajpat Nagar IV
11 am - 7 pm, till 15 January 2016
Entry is free

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