Catholic samurai and the European landscape. What image do you have of them when you hear the words? The postcard I got has a beautiful oil painting landscape and the words. The person who gave me the postcard is Dr. Jeff Woodger. I met him first at a station last April. Both of us took part in a hiking tour for Kaisho-no-mori forest at that time.
“I’m an artist.” He replied to my question, “What are you doing here in Japan?” and gave me the postcard while waiting for other participants at the station. Printed one of his works “The Beautiful Looking East,” the postcard was the information of his exhibition at a gallery in Sakae and of his lecture at Nagoya University. To be honest, I couldn’t imagine him painting because he looked like a just adventurer from Australia that day.
Jeff’s lecture was held at Nagoya University on May 15. The title was that words: Catholic Samurai and the European Landscape”. I took it with some of my friends. Jeff looked like a serious professor during the lecture…After that, we had a small party outside. Jeff served “Vegemite” to the participants!
Jeff got interested in a landscape painting by a British painter John Glover during he was at the Bendigo Art Gallery in Victoria, Australia as a curator in the late of 1980’s. According to Jeff, Glover was very influenced by Claude Lorraine, a French landscape painter in the 17th century. In 1994, Jeff came to Japan and studied Japanese and Chinese painting style. After that he move to England and discovered many similarities between Lorraine’s paintings and those oriental painting techniques. But there weren’t any proofs that Lorraine had been influenced by the East at that time.
Moving back to Australia, Jeff began to research the mystery at the University of Ballart, Victoria in 2002 and has found out some interesting facts: Nobunaga Oda, the feudal lord in Japan, started to send Catholic samurai warriors to Roma in 1585. A French painter Deruet painted a portrait of a leader of a group of delegates Tsunenaga Hasekura in 1615. The Pope and cardinals were included in Lorraine’s patrons. Moreover, Lorraine worked with Deruet in 1626. – Thus, it’s highly possibility that Lorraine met Japanese people and saw their gifts included Japanese style paintings.
Through many researches and studies, Jeff has created a new landscape painting style. Western landscape paintings usually have a fixed-point and viewers see them vertically, but Jeff’s new style landscape paintings have no fixed-point. So viewers see his pictures horizontally and can enjoy a tour inside the painting. In fact, his recent works looked like moving when I saw them directly at the gallery last Sunday. They looked like motion pictures. I felt the air, breeze, sunshine, sound of a stream, and songs of birds from his works. Interestingly Jeff was wearing a classical painter blouse at the gallery. I was about to take a photo of him, he put on a Japanese towel and a tricorn. He looked like a pirate!