Settai Komura Biography

Born in Kawagoe, Saitama. Family name Taisuke. He studied nihonga under Araki Kanpo in 1903 and entered the nihonga course at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts in 1904 where he studied under Shimomura Kanzan. He graduated in 1908 and worked at the studio producing the art journal Kokka, making woodblock printed copies of paintings. In 1914 he designed a cover for the novel, Nihonbashi by Izumi Kyoka. He illustrated serial novels of newspapers like '•Osen 'Odenjigoku'1 for Kunieda Kanji since 1933. His unique illustrations influenced by Suzuki Harunobu's colours and Aubrey Beardsley's black and white drawing technique, made him a very popular illustrator. His important'Odenjigoku' series was commissioned by the author of the novel, for his private use. A small number of his prints were published after his death. He also worked as an art director for the theatre and as an art consultant.  (Helen Merritt, Modern Japanese Prints)  
Komura Settai(1887-1940) After a year of private lessons with the painter Araki Kampo (1831-1915), Settai entered the Tokyo Art School, where he specialized in Japanese-style painting. He graduated in 1908 and worked for the next few years for the prestigious art journal, Kokka.  Already by 1914, however he was earning his living as an illustrator and graphic artist. In 1924 he also began designing stage sets and from that time on was involved in numerous theater and film productions. As a print artist, he was heavily influenced by the work of the mid-18th century ukiyo-e mas-ters, Harunobu and Buncho.    
The following passage is from Donald Jenkins reflections on a typical Settai print depicting an architectural detail or a house.  "There can be an eloquence in leaving things unsaid; images can often express as much by what they withhold as what they reveal. Japanese artists seem to know this instinctively and almost invariably prefer to suggest or imply and thus intrigue the viewer's imagination rather than spell things out too explicitly It is an approach that can be baffling to Westerners. Used to a more direct form of presentation, we sometimes miss the point entirely.  Could that be the case here? What, after all, is happening in this print? Actually all we see is an empty verandah-like room projecting into an equally empty garden.  A few slender, all but leafless branches hang down from an unseen tree in front of the thatched roof of the porch. Fallen leaves are scattered evenly across the ground, suggesting flecks of color in a textured fabric. What we do not see is as important as what we do. We know that whoever owns or uses the little room must be a person of taste and sensitivity: everything about the room is immaculate and refined; the narrow lacquer table and low chest are elegant yet almost severely simple and fit perfectly with the geometry of the bare tatami. The openness of the room, too, is significant, the way it becomes an island in the midst of the tranquil garden. It tells us that the owner finds refreshment in the contemplation of nature, in the randomness and change that nature, following its own rhythms, introduces into even the most orderly life. The view down into the room, the steep tilt of the ground plane, and the emphasis on diagonals are all conventions found already in some of the earliest japanese handscrolls dating from the 12th century Settai clearly wanted us to think of this work in traditional terms".    
Ref:Jenkins, Donald,  "Images of a Changing world, Japanese Prints of the Twentieth Century" Portland Art Museum 1983-84 Exhibition catalog.