About half a century has passed since the establishment of the Japan Scientific Art Association. It was Philipp Franz van Siebold, a German physician and naturalist who began full-fledged research studies on biology in Japan. He arrived in Nagasaki in 1823 as a medical doctor, and later published the result of his survey in Fauna Japonica. In this book, many illustrations of Japanese painters are included. The Japanese painters had drawn or painted the beauties of nature in the Japanese style. Siebold taught them the western painting technique which resulted in the emergence of modern natural paintings.
32 scientific illustrators gathered at the Zasshi Hall in Kanda Surugadai, Tokyo in response to the call for protecting the copyright of painters of scientific reference illustrations made by Yonekichi Makino, Isamu Kobayashi, Tesshin Tateishi, Mitsuo Shirao, Kenko Saito, Keisuke Sasaki, Shiro Suzuki, and others. They all agreed upon the establishment of an association at the meeting. Unlike other illustrators and painters of children, demand for scientific illustrations was limited, hence, the number of illustrators specializing in this genre was very small. In addition, as we had to pour enormous time and energy into collecting and observing specimens and researches, the source of energy for illustrators specializing in this genre is nothing but “because I like it.” We could hardly claim our engagement to be a profession. In those days, publishers, scholar-writers and even illustrators themselves had little awareness of copyright. Later, colleagues in the Kansai area were invited to join, and the Association came to have a little more than 60 members. We engraved on our hearts that we should be responsible for the originality of our work pieces on the very day we began claiming our copyright. I was in my early 20s then, but I felt overwhelmed with the feverish atmosphere of the meeting. (Iwaki Matsubara)
Japan Scientific Art Association was established with 67 members. The Articles of the Association was determined. The Byelaws were determined in August. Bulletin No. 1 was published.
1st Scientific Art Exhibition held at Ikebukuro Mitsukoshi Department Store. Supported by Asahi Shimbun-sha
The explanation on art copyrights was prepared and distributed to the members
The organ “Rika Bijutsu (Scientific Art)” No. 1 was issued. Joined the establishment (with six other organizations) of the Publishing Art Council ShuppanBijyutuKyougikai, collected the requests from member organizations, and negotiated with Shokyo the Textbook Publishers Association of Japan.
2nd Scientific Art Exhibition held at Ikebukuro Mitsukoshi Department Store. Membership increased to 77.
Opened the “Seaside House” of the Association in Onjuku, Chiba prefecture
3rd Scientific Art Exhibition held at Ikebukuro Mitsukoshi Department Store, with a special exhibition under the title of “Roadside Trees.”
The Tokyo District Court gave a decision on the case of copyright issue with Toundo publisher in favor of painters after 20 months of deliberations. Congratulatory telegrams rushed in. Encouraged by this decision, the Committee issued a statement and organ No. 2
Opened the “Seaside House” which was enlivened by members’ families.
4th Scientific Art Exhibition held at Ikebukuro Mitsukoshi Department Store. Presented the picture album to all supporting publishers.
Began studying nature in Oze marsh.
A No. 5 science art exhibition. Meeting place / Ikebukuro Mitsukoshi. 20 support publishing companies. I exhibit 69 points of pictures, photograph 15 points
It revises a part of the rules of a society at a general meeting.
6th Scientific Art Exhibition at Ikebukuro Mitsukoshi Department Store supported by 20 publishers.
7th Scientific Art Exhibition “Oze Exhibition” at Ikebukuro Tobu Department Store supported by the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the National Science Museum
Joined the establishment of the Art Copyrights Federation. Submitted the letter of request on art publishing to the advisory council on copyrights of the Ministry of Education.
8th Scientific Art Exhibition at Shinjuku Keio Department Store
Exhibited 48 works at the Japan Children’s Culture Center,Jidoubunkakan, Kanosan, Chiba prefecture
Small Scientific Art Exhibition in collaboration with a children’s cultural organization.
9th Scientific Art Exhibition at the Toshima Culture Center
The New Copyright Act was enforced. Requests from scientific artists were reflected in the new law.
At the request of Dentsu, an advertising agency, the works of the members were included in the All Japan Illustrator Directory.
Preparation for the Chichibu Exhibition was progressed, and members frequently visited Chichibu to collect specimens.
The Publishing Art Council took the lead in making an agreement with NHK on using art works in its programs, and in negotiating with the Textbook Publishers Association of Japan.
The 20th Anniversary of the Japan Scientific Art Association. The organ “Scientific Art” No. 3 was issued. The bulletin “Rikabi” was revived. Keisuke Sasaki began his essay series “This and That in Chichibu” as part of preparation for the Chichibu Exhibition.
“Scientific Art” No. 4 was issued, and distributed to major publishers with the list of members.
“Scientific Art” No. 5 was issued.
“Scientific Art” No. 6 was issued.
“Scientific Art” No. 7 was issued.
The 30th anniversary of the Japan Scientific Art Association. 10th Scientific Art Exhibition was held from July 7 to 12 under the name of “Scientific Art Exhibition ‘88” at the Yomiuri Salon in Ginza Printemps Department Store. “Scientific Art” No. 8 was issued featuring the Scientific Art Exhibition ’88.
Joined the Japan Reprographic Rights Center.
“Scientific Art” No. 9 was issued. In the “Profiles of the Members,” the past achievements and works of the members were described in detail.
“Scientific Art” No. 10 was issued.
Celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Japan Scientific Art Association
11th Scientific Art Exhibition “Scientific Art Exhibition ’05” was held at Yamawaki Gallery.
About half a century has passed since the establishment of the Japan Scientific Art Association, as an association of reference and specimen illustrators. It was Philipp Franz van Siebold, a German physician and naturalist who began full-fledged research studies on biology in Japan. He arrived in Nagasaki in 1823 as a medical doctor, and later published the result of his survey in Fauna Japonica. In this book, many illustrations of Japanese painters are included. The Japanese painters had drawn or painted the beauties of nature in the Japanese style. Siebold taught them the western painting technique which resulted in the emergence of modern natural paintings.
In the process of modernization after the Meiji Restoration, printing techniques, printing machines, cameras and other devices were advanced, beautiful illustrations and photographs came to be used for school textbooks and books for general readers. These books with illustrations helped the later development of learning and technology in Japan.
During World War II, activities of scientific artists had to be suspended. When peace returned after the war, cultural activities regained strength as if to make up for lost time. The publishing community put forward encyclopedias, illustrated reference books on fauna and flora, and illustrated reference books for children one after another. It was the members of the Japan Scientific Art Association right after its establishment who contributed illustrations in these books. Later, the academic community underwent the process of specialization. Along with this, illustrators were increasingly specialized. More specified knowledge and more advanced techniques were demanded of professional illustrators. Compared to the early naturalist paintings, the expression methods have greatly developed, and as a result, pictures have become more beautiful and the degree of their reliability has been enhanced.
Precise pictures in illustrated reference books may appear to be completely objective depictions. Unlike pen drawings and lithographs, however, they are termed either as reference pictures or specimen pictures which are drawn with the specific purposes of academic or scientific explanations. To draw a specimen illustration, an illustrator places the specimen before him, and measures the sizes of their parts while drawing. But he does not portray the specimen exactly as it is. First, he reads reliable reference books, and examines the actual measurements. Often it is hard to express the object three-dimensionally as he avoids applying highlights and dark shadows. In order to give a cubic flavor, he may apply some deformations to parts which are not related to the explanation. For drawing the outline, traditional sumi (charcoal ink) drawing can be effective. Overusing stippling for shadowing will be bothersome, and affect the legibility of the most important parts. Simple brushstrokes are effective and beautiful. This is also true for colored illustrations.
The development not only in drawing methodologies, but also in cameras, printing technologies, and further computer graphics in recent years have made it easier to draw objects that require enormous time, labor and highly skilled techniques. Even so, nothing can compete with delicate lines drawn with a brush. Hand-drawing continues to be best fit for scientific illustrations.
It is in academic reference books that specimen illustrations display their real characteristics. Despite people’s interest in nature, and the development of printing technologies, publishing houses are not positive to put forth academic reference books with illustrations. They are more concerned about profitable books and give up on books with cultural value. If a special technique such as ours were to be forgotten, it would be difficult to restore. Here lies the reason for us to appeal to the public concerning the significance of the presence of the Japan Scientific Art Association.
Kaku Watanabe, Chairperson
Japan Scientific Art Association
History of the Japan Scientific Art Association – Background for the Establishment in June 1958