Iwasaki, Chihiro (Matsumoto) 1918-1974
IWASAKI, Chihiro (Matsumoto) 1918-1974
PERSONAL: Born December 15, 1918, in Takefu, Fukui, Japan; died from liver cancer August 8, 1974; married Zenmei Matsumoto, 1950; children: Takeshi. Education: Studied sketching and painting under Saburosuke Okada, calligraphy at the Fujiwara Kozei School, oil painting under Tai Nakatani, and art under Toshiko Akamatsu. Politics: Communist.
CAREER: Artist and children's book author/illustrator.
MEMBER: Shinfujin ("New Japan Women's Association"; cofounder, 1962).
AWARDS, HONORS: Chihiro Art Museum of Picture Books, founded in Tokyo, Japan, in 1997, in memory of the artist; Fiera di Bologna graphics prize, for Kotorino Kuru Hi, 1971; Bronze Medal, Leipzig International Book Fair, 1974, for Senka no Naka no Kodomo-tachi.
SELF-ILLUSTRATED PICTURE BOOKS
Momoko and the Pretty Bird, [London, England], 1967, Follett (Chicago, IL), 1973.
Momoko's Lovely Day, [London, England], 1968 published as Staying Home Alone on a Rainy Day, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1969.
A Brother for Momoko, [London, England], 1970 published as A New Baby Is Coming to My House, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1972.
Neighbors, [London, England], 1972 published as Will You Be My Friend?, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1973.
Momoko's Birthday, [London, England], 1973, published as The Birthday Wish, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1974.
What's Fun without a Friend? McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1975.
Hirosuke Hamada, Aiveo nohon, Orien (Japan), 1963.
Alvin Tresselt (reteller), The Tears of the Dragon, Parents' Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1967.
Miyoko Matsutani, The Crane Maiden, Parents' Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1968.
Karl Maria van Weber, K. M. Weber's Invitation to the Dance, adapted by Keisuke Tsutsui, translated by Ann King Herring, Gakken (Tokyo, Japan), 1969.
Alvin Tresselt (reteller), The Fisherman under the Sea, Parents' Magazine Press (New York, NY), 1969.
Hans Christian Andersen, The Red Shoes, translated by Anthea Bell, Nugenbauer Press (Boston, MA), 1983.
Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Mermaid, adapted by Anthea Bell, Picture Book Studio (Natick, MA), 1984.
Brothers Grimm, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, translated and adapted by Anthea Bell, Picture Book Studio (Natick, MA), 1985.
Anthea Bell (reteller), Swan Lake: A Traditional Folktale, Picture Book Studio (Natick, MA), 1986.
Anthea Bell (reteller), The Wise Queen: A Traditional Folktale, Picture Book Studio (Natick, MA), 1986.
Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window, translated by Dorothy Britton, Kodansha International (Tokyo, Japan), 1996.
Illustrator of more than fifty additional books.
SIDELIGHTS: Japanese-born illustrator and author Chihiro Iwasaki began studying art as a teenager, starting with sketches and oil painting. She mentored under a number of artists, including Saburosuke Okada and Tai Nakatani. During World War II, she saw her family home destroyed in an air raid on Tokyo and was forced to flee to her grandmother's home in Nagano, where she joined the Japanese Communist Party. Once the war was over, she resumed her artistic endeavors, and in 1946 became a writer/illustrator for the Jimmin Shinbun (People's Paper).
Iwasaki's career developed further when she began work as an illustrator of children's books and magazines. Her artwork provided the framework for her own original stories as well as works by other authors, and she went on to illustrate more than seventy books, including well-known fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. Iwasaki became noted for her accurate depiction of children, and her ability to portray the small differences between babies of relatively similar age, and attributed her precise vision to the experiences of raising her own child. As her illustrations evolved, Iwasaki created her own unique style, using techniques of Western watercolor painting in combination with traditional Asian styles using India ink and details from her study of calligraphy.
Among Iwasaki's picture books for children are several that focus on the daily activities of a little girl named Momoko (or Allison, in the American versions). Each book takes Momoko through a specific circumstance, from a rainy day at home, to remaining alone while her mother goes out, to getting a new baby brother. Referring to Staying Home Alone on a Rainy Day, a contributor to Kirkus Reviews wrote that "on pages that simulate the texture of canvas are watercolors that are . . . deft sketches." In School Library Journal, Margaret A. Dorsey wrote of Iwasaki that "her vibrant, translucent colors are as eye-catching as ever."
A Brother for Momoko (published in the United States as A New Baby Is Coming to My House) continues the child's adventures. Gabrielle Maunder, reviewing the work for School Librarian, commented "each page is quite lovely; every turn reveals the same thunder coloring and the story . . . has a perfect simplicity." A reviewer for Junior Bookshelf found the sparse text and delicate illustrations insufficient, stating that "this clever, sensitive . . . book fails in one important particular; it cannot communicate fully." However Margery Fisher, writing for Growing Point, remarked that the story was told "subtly in words and pictures."
Other "Momoko" volumes include Momoko and the Pretty Bird and Momoko's Birthday (published in the United States as The Birthday Wish). The first story has Momoko wishing for a bird that will sing to sing to her. Margery Fisher wrote in Growing Point that the tale "unfolds clearly in the subtle, beautiful pictures." In Momoko's Birthday, the little girl learns a lesson about waiting her turn to be the center of attention. Edward Hudson, in Children's Book Review, wrote that "the events are all too brief and fleeting," going on to question whether the simple, aesthetic artwork "may have the adverse effect of creating no impression whatsoever." Marcus Crouch, however, reviewing the book for Junior Bookshelf, called Momoko's Birthday "lovely" and Iwasaki "among the most original artists in this field."
Iwasaki died of liver cancer in 1974. In 1977, her house in Nerima-ku, Tokyo was transformed into the Chihiro Art Museum of Picture Books, and the majority of her work is now housed there. Exhibits change regularly, with approximately one hundred pieces on display at any given time. In an article for Phaedrus James Fraser wrotethat "among the post World War Two illustrators of children's books in Japan, Chihiro Iwasaki is certainly one of several who deservedly enjoys an international reputation." He continued by noting that "although her life is over, her books remain as popular, as in her lifetime, if not more so, as reception of her concern for children and peace seems to be increasing." Iwasaki herself was quoted on the Chihiro Art Museum Web site as noting: "When I am painting children, I feel as if I am painting my own childhood."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Children's Literature Review, Volume 18, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1989.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, December, 1975, Zena Sutherland, review of What's Fun without a Friend?, p. 64.
Children's Book Review, October, 1972, Edward Hudson, review of Momoko and the Pretty Bird, p. 145; December, 1973, Edward Hudson, review of Momoko's Birthday, pp. 170-171.
Growing Point, December, 1969, Margery Fisher, review of Momoko's Lovely Day, p. 1445; October, 1970, Margery Fisher, review of A Brother for Momoko, pp. 1606-1607; July, 1972, Margery Fisher, review of Momoko and the Pretty Bird, p. 1967.
Junior Bookshelf, October, 1969, review of Momoko's Lovely Day, p. 292; October, 1970, review of A Brother for Momoko, p. 285; December, 1973, Marcus Crouch, review of Momoko's Birthday, pp. 375-376.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1969, review of Staying Home Alone on a Rainy Day, p. 370; October 1, 1972, review of A New Baby Is Coming to My House, p. 1140; June 15, 1974, review of The Birthday Wish, p. 631.
Phaedrus, Volume 12, 1986-1987, James Fraser, "The Iwasaki Chihiro Art Museum of Picture Books in Tokyo," pp. 63-64.
Publishers Weekly, February 25, 1974, review of Will You Be My Friend?, p. 113; June 30, 1975, review of What's Fun without a Friend?, p. 709.
School Librarian, December, 1970, Gabrielle Maunder, review of A Brother for Momoko, p. 500.
School Library Journal, October, 1969, Margaret A. Dorsey, review of Staying Home Alone on a Rainy Day, p. 130; February, 1973, Melinda Schroeder, review of A New Baby Is Coming to My House, p. 61; September, 1974, Melinda Schroeder, review of Will You Be My Friend?, p. 63.
Washington Post Book World, November 5, 1972, Michael J. Bandler, review of A New Baby Is Coming to My House, p. 3.
Wilson Library Bulletin, September, 1974, Barbara Dill, review of The Birthday Wish, pp. 84-85.
Chihiro Art Museum Web site, http://www.chihiro.jp/english/ (September 23, 2004), "Chihiro Iwasaki."*