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Sir Hugh Casson PRA, Cover design for Japan Observed: A Sketchbook

Cover design for Japan Observed: A Sketchbook, c.1991

Sir Hugh Casson PRA (1910 - 1999)

RA Collection: Art

In 1983 Sir Hugh Casson PRA and Lady Margaret MacDonald (Casson) were invited to revisit Japan by the Japan Foundation, accompanied by Sir Hugh Cortazzi to see Kyoto and Nara. They travelled from Tokyo to Hiroshima stopping in different cities on their way. Hugh Casson’s drawings and photographs taken by Lady Margaret are for Japan Observed: A Sketch Book published in 1991 which create a diary of the trip. The book contains an introduction by Casson in which he describes visiting Japan and the content of the book as a “travel diary [consisting] largely of tiny ‘eyeshots’”.

Hugh Cortazzi, a scholar or Japan and the HM Ambassador in Tokyo in 1980-84, created the written historical notes accompanying Casson’s drawings, bringing the sketches to life and putting them into context but also contrasting with the modern day showing how things have changed or stayed the same. Cortazzi writes a few paragraphs for each place visited in which he summarises what the drawings are in that section but goes in to more detail on the following pages next to the drawings.

Hugh Casson’s sketches capture the essence and atmosphere of the places visited. They are accompanied by Casson’s handwritten notes identifying the subject of the drawing, he has also labelled colours in some of the drawings. Stamps containing Japanese motifs adorn some of the pages. Cortazzi describes Lady Margaret’s photographs as selected ‘architectural details which typify the Japanese aesthetic sense’. The book uses the drawings and photographs to demonstrate the essence of Japan and a snapshot of the places visited. This book was one of a series of popular titles produced a decade following Casson’s presidency.

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Object details

Cover design for Japan Observed: A Sketchbook
Sir Hugh Casson PRA (1910 - 1999)
Object type
Copyright owner
Pen and ink and watercolour drawing on hand made paper overlad with tracing paper with a print on wove paper, overlaid with another layer of tracing paper with pen and ink and pencil annotations.

272 mm x 598 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Given by Carola Zogolovitch 24/01/2017
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