Professor Toshio Watanabe

Profile image of Professor of History of Art and Design Co-founder and Member of Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation (TrAIN)

Professor of History of Art and Design Co-founder and Member of Research Centre for Transnational Art, Identity and Nation (TrAIN)

Camberwell, Chelsea, Wimbledon

Biography

Professor Toshio Watanabe is Co-founder and Member of the Transnational Art, Identity and Nation (TrAIN) research centre.

He studied at the Universities of Sophia, Tokyo, London (Courtauld Institute of Art), and Basel, where he completed his PhD. He has taught at the City of Birmingham Polytechnic, where he ran the MA in History of Art and Design course.

He has been at Chelsea since 1986, initially as the Head of Art History and later as Head of Research.

Professor Watanabe is an art historian, studying mostly the period 1850–1950, who is interested in exploring how art of different places and cultures intermingle and affect each other.

Current external roles include acting as a Vice President of CIHA (Comité International d’Histoire de l’Art), Chair of CIHA British National Committee, a trustee of the Association of Art Historians and a member of the Advisory Board of Tate Research Centre: Asia-Pacific. Past external roles include acting as Chair of Association of Art Historians, President of Japan Art History Forum (USA), Tate Britain Council member and Chair of International Jury of Künstlerhaus Schloss Balmoral, Bad Ems (Germany).

Research interests

Modern Japanese gardens in transnational context, British Japonisme, modern Japanese painting (1880s-1940s), Japanese imperial architecture (1880s-1940s), the construction of Japanese, Art History.

Research statement

The main focus of Watanabe's research is transnational interactions of art with an emphasis on the issue of modernity and identity. He is particularly interested in exploring this, not just in bilateral, but in multilateral relationships, such as those between Japan, China, Taiwan, India, Britain or the USA within the time span between 1850 and 1950. His interest in transnational relationships covers all media, but particularly architecture, garden design, watercolour painting and popular graphics. Particular emphasis is put on the consumption of these art forms locally and globally.

Current projects include Japanese gardens and the World War II, censorship of early 20th painting, and Buddhism and the construction of Japanese Art History.

Past projects include High Victorian Japonisme (PhD and book; winner of the Society for the Study of Japonisme Prize), Japan and Britain: an Aesthetic Dialogue 1850-1930 (exhibition and book), Modernity and National Identity in Art: India, Japan and Mexico 1860s-1940s (AHRB funded), Ruskin in Japan 1890-1940: Nature for art, art for life (exhibition and book and winner of 1998 Japan Festival Prize and of 1999 Gesner Gold Award), and Forgotten Japonisme: Taste for Japanese Art in Britain and the USA 1930s-1950s.

Students

Current students & thesis titles

Stephanie Cheung, Participation in Contemporary Chinese Art.

Yijing Wang, An Investigation into Ethnography through Animation: A case study of the Longhorn Miao people.

Hiroki Yamamoto, Aesthetics for Decolonisation: Socially Engaged Art beyond the Coloniser/Colonised Binary and Postcolonial Issues of 'Adjacent' Others in East Asia.

Completed students & thesis titles

Raphael Jay Adjani, Towards a Deep Ecology of Art, Technology and Being - an ontological investigation with particular reference to the rock-cut edifices of Ellora, India and Tadao Ando's Water Temple.

Catherine Bailey, The Reeves Collection: an investigation into Chinese botanical drawings, their identification and conservation.

Anna Basham, The Denial of Influence: Japan and British Design 1919-1939.

Nicolas Cambridge, Son of Samurai. Daughter of Butterfly: fashioning Japanese identity in the sartorial culture of the United Kingdom, 1980-2006.

Alexandra Handal, Locating the Self: Palestine, diaspora, geographies and body in contemporary art.

Shu-fang Huang, The Traces of a Traveller: Textile-based Narrative in Contemporary Art Practices.

Christopher Jordan, Steering Taste: Ernest Marsh, A Study of Private Collecting in the Early Twentieth Century.

Cindy Lisica, Superflat Art: Meaning and Merchandise for the 21st Century.

Piotr Splawski, Japonisme in Polish Pictorial Arts (1885-1939).

Nicola Stylianou, Producing and Collecting for Empire: African Textiles in the V&A 1852-2000.

Suzana Vaz, The Archaic makes the Avant-Garde. Experimental Practice and Primordial Image. Reading the Brazilian Post-Neoconcrete and the Japanese Gutai Artists through Mircea Eliade and Carl Gustav Jung.

Selected research outputs

  • Alfred Parsons, RA, PRWS (1847-1920) and the Japanese Watercolour Movement

    Watanabe, Toshio (2015) Alfred Parsons, RA, PRWS (1847-1920) and the Japanese Watercolour Movement. In: Britain & Japan: Biographical Portraits. Renaissance Books, Folkestone, pp. 284-296. ISBN 978-1-898823-16-2

  • The Art Historical Canon and the Transnational

    Watanabe, Toshio (2014) The Art Historical Canon and the Transnational. In: The Challenge of the Object = Die Herausforderung des Objekts. Wissenschaftliche Beibände zum Anzeiger des Germanischen Nationalmuseums (32). Verlag des Germanischen Nationalmuseums, Nuremberg, Germany, pp. 1505-1507. ISBN 978-3-936688-66-5

  • 1910 Japan-British exhibition and the art of Britain and Japan

    Watanabe, Toshio (2013) 1910 Japan-British exhibition and the art of Britain and Japan. In: Commerce and Culture at the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition: Centenary Perspectives. Global Oriental, Leiden & Boston, pp. 123-133. ISBN 978-90-04-22916-7

  • Josiah Conder (1852-1920)

    Watanabe, Toshio (2013) Josiah Conder (1852-1920). In: Biographical Portraits. Britain and Japan, VIII . Global Oriental, Leiden & Boston, pp. 324-331. ISBN 978-90-04-24602-7

  • Rinpa and Japonisme

    Watanabe, Toshio (2013) Rinpa and Japonisme. In: Reconsidering Early Modern Yamato-e: Perspectives from Japan, the UK, and the USA. Brücke, Tokyo. ISBN 9784434183836

  • The Art Historical Canon and the Transnational

    Watanabe, Toshio (2012) The Art Historical Canon and the Transnational. In: The Challenge of the Object (CIHA Congress), 15-20 July 2012, Nuremberg, Germany. (Submitted)

  • Forgotten Japonisme

    Watanabe, Toshio (2012) Forgotten Japonisme. In: La creación artistica como puente entre Oriente y Occidente. Grupo de Investigación Completense Arte de Asia, Grupo de Investigación ASIA, Madrid. ISBN 978-84-608-1263-0

  • What is Japonisme? terminology and interpretation

    Watanabe, Toshio (2012) What is Japonisme? terminology and interpretation. In: Art of Japan, Japanisms and Polish-Japanese Art Relations. Polish Institute of World Art Studies & Tako Publishing House, Torun, Poland, pp. 215-218. ISBN 978-83-62737-16-1

  • Modern Japanese gardens

    Watanabe, Toshio (2011) Modern Japanese gardens. In: Since Meiji: Perspectives on the Japanese Visual Arts, 1868-2000. University of Hawai'i Press, Honolulu. ISBN 9780824834418

  • The modern Japanese garden in a transnational context

    Watanabe, Toshio (2010) The modern Japanese garden in a transnational context. In: The Power of Things and the Flow of Cultural Transformations. Deutscher Kunstverlag, Berlin/Munich, pp. 170-185. ISBN 9783422069787