"Flower Hand-cart,"  Chihiro Iwasaki, 1967.

"Flower Hand-cart," Chihiro Iwasaki, 1967. Courtesy of The Chihiro Iwasaki Museum. ©Chihiro Iwasaki. All rights reserved.

Back in 1996 Norman Rockwell Museum was honored to present an exhibition featuring the art of an illustrator who remains as popular in her home country of Japan, as Norman Rockwell has been in America. The Picturebook Art of Chihiro Iwasaki showcased an exquisite collection of the acclaimed Japanese picture book artist’s work, organized by the museum that bears her name in Tokyo. In light of the country’s recent tragedy, Norman Rockwell Museum staff decided to check in with our friends at the Chihiro Iwasaki Museum.

“I cannot believe what has been happening in Japan,” says Chihiro Iwasaki Memorial Foundation Secretariat Yukiko Kubota. “Nearly 10,000 dead… over 16,000 still lost.” Kubota, who spent a couple weeks studying American illustration at Norman Rockwell Museum back in 2004, is doing ok but says that the Chihiro museum needed to close following the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant concerns in order to attend to maintenance and the safety of its visitors.

This past weekend the Chihiro Iwasaki Museum (with locations in both Tokyo and Azumino) was finally able to reopen its doors, with slightly shortened hours in order to preserve energy. “People are suffering, but we feel closer to each other than ever, trying to help and support each other… we understand clearly now that no one can live alone, that we are depending on each other somehow in the end.” Ms. Kubota reports that the museum plans to do something to help the community, although one could say that the opportunity to view Iwasaki’s charming watercolors offers its own comfort.

Born in 1918, Chihiro Iwaski developed a unique personal artistic style of subtle expression by mixing techniques of Western watercolor painting with traditional Japanese and Chinese techniques. This delicate and flowing style was an essential quality of the artist’s work. In 1956, she created her first picture book, Hitori de Dekiru yo (I Can Do it All by Myself). She would go on to create over 8,000 works, including the award-winning picture books Kotori no Kuri Hi (The Pretty Bird) in 1971, and Senka no Naka no Kodomo-tachi (Children in the Flames of War) in 1974.

Like Norman Rockwell, Iwasaki became known for pleasant imagery that became nationally recognized and loved. Following her death in 1974, The Chihiro Iwasaki Art Museum of Picture Books was founded on her beautiful home site, located in the outskirts of Tokyo. “I love everything peaceful, rich, beautiful, and pretty,” she once remarked.  “I get extremely angry at the forces which try to destroy these things.”

Along with the rest of the world, Norman Rockwell Museum sends our deepest sympathies to the people of Japan, and hope for a speedy recovery.

Museum’s website: www.chihiro.jp

Japanese Red Cross Society: www.jrc.or.jp

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