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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Einstein Manga Caricature By Artist Okamoto Ippei

Please forgive the shortness of this blog, but I've had too many things on the go.

Still, it is interesting.

What we have here is a portrait of Albert Einstein, preeminent genius, created by the cartoonist Okamoto Ippei (surname first, 岡本 一平) done in December of 1922 in Sendai-shi (Sendai City), Miyagi-ken (Miyagi Prefecture), Japan.

Einstein was in Japan on a tour discussing Physics, after winning a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921.

I'll assume his talks were translated from German into Japanese. His talks were very well-received by the Japanese public.

Okamoto was born June 11, 1886 in Hakodate, Hokkaido-ken, dying on October 11, 1948.

The following was taken from

After his studies in Fine Arts in Tokyo, Ippei Okamoto made his comments on political and social actuality in his cartoons for Asahi Shimbun starting in 1912. At the same time, he created comics for several magazines, starting with 'Kuma o Tazunete'. He began collaborations with several magazines which resulted in works like 'Tanpô Gashu' (1913), 'Kanraku' (1914), 'Match no Bou' (1915), and 'Monomiyusan' (1916). In 1921, he made 'Nakimushi Dera no Yawa', before he started travelling around the world. 
When he returned in Japan, he introduced (classic) American comic (strips) like 'Mutt and Jeff' and 'Bringing up Father' to the Japanese public through publication in a supplement of Asahi Shimbum and in Fujokai. He also took on his own production again and produced 'Yajikita Saikou' (1925) and the collection 'Ipei Zenshû' (1929-30). His book with caricatures, 'Shin Mizu ya Sora', was very famous. Okamoto was additionally an artist of advertising comics, as well as a novellist ('Fuji wa Sakaku' in 1927).

He considered himself a manga-kisha (comic strip/book-journalist), an artist who made social and political commentary via his drawings... something that had certainly existed before him, but perhaps not to the degree to which he threw himself in Japan.

In 1915, Okamoto gathered his manga-kisha friends from the major dailies of Tokyo to establish the first professional organization of mangaka, the "Tokyo mangakai".

This association promoted their work through public events, festivals and exhibitions, especially the Tokaido manga ryoko ("manga trip on the Tokaido"), a trip of twenty designers in cars illustrating in their own way the fifty-three stages of this route between Tokyo and Kyoto immortalized by ukiyo-e artist Hiroshige Ando.

For more about Hiroshige, and an image of one of his original prints that I own, click HERE.

The mangakai were the ones who helped popularize the term "manga", aka comic book in Japan.

In 1921 when he began to travel the world, he visited Europe and the U.S., and was obviously back in Japan at the end of 1922 to provide the excellent caricature portrait of Einstein a la manga.

Between 1929 and 1932, he enjoyed worked abroad as a special envoy of the Asashi Shimbun (Asahi Newspaper).

He is considered to be a pioneer in Japanese manga, preceding the modernist stream embodied after the war by Osamu Tezuka (the man who created Astro Boy).

One of his fans was author Soseki Natsume (surname first), who had Okamoto illustrate many of his stories that first appeared in the Asashi Shimbun.

Okay... that's all I have time for!

Andrew Joseph

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