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From Madonna to Femme Fatale: Gender play in japanese national painting

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Chapter Summary

This chapter approaches the issue of gender by examining allegorical representations of womanhood in outstanding Nihonga works of the Meiji and Taishō eras. It first contends that Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Mercy, provided into the 1920s a paradigm of the ?third gender,? offering an escape from the boundaries of gender difference. While Kanō Hōgai created Merciful Kannon in 1888 as a masculine manifestation of motherhood, Nude Woman, submitted in 1920 by Murakami Kagaku to the Association for the Creation of National Painting, represents an allegory of the ?eternal woman? in the guise of the ?third gender? of Kannon. The chapter then explores the work of Kainoshō Tadaoto. It is the chapter?s contention that in response to Buddhist concepts of transgender, Western theories of sexual perversion, and fin-de-siècle decadence, the notion of the ?third gender? entered the imagery of the New Woman as a nationalistic alternative to female symbols of empowerment.

Keywords: gender difference; Japanese national painting; Kainoshō Tadaoto; Kanō Hōgai; Meiji era; Murakami Kagaku; Nihonga works; Taishō era



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