22 February 2013

Carl Randall's encounters with the late Donald Richie

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Since moving to Japan in 1947, the recently deceased Donald Richie (1924 – 2013) became recognised worldwide as a Western authority on Japanese culture and society, being described by Time Magazine as ‘the dean of arts in Japan’. He wrote over 30 books about Japan, befriended some of Japan’s foremost artists (including filmmaker Akira Kurosawa), and was the point of contact for non-Japanese artists such as Francis Ford Coppola and Igor Stravinsky.

The artist, Dr Carl Randall, a 2003 Daiwa Scholar and a former Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholar, was fortunate to have met Donald Richie and to have painted his portrait. 

Richie said of Randall, “Carl Randall’s vision of Tokyo and its people is unique and valuable. He is the only Western artist in Tokyo who uses non-Japanese techniques to produce works about modern urban Japan.” (D.Richie, 2009)

Carl has generously sent us an account of his encounters with Richie, and photographs to accompany his piece below.


Arriving in Tokyo in 2003 as a Daiwa Anglo- Japanese Foundation Scholar, I was hoping to meet interesting, creative people connected with the arts in Japan. Having read a number of books by Donald Richie, and knowing that he had made significant contributions to the understanding of Japan, I wrote to him to see if he would like to sit for a portrait.

This would satisfy my interest as a portrait-based artist to paint faces, whilst also fulfilling my personal wish to meet him. He agreed, and we made the portrait in his home in Ueno, East Tokyo, over three separate two-hour sessions.

Later, he also sat for another portrait as part of a large crowd portrait I was working on, visiting my studio at Tokyo University of Arts. On this occasion he was accompanied by the documentary filmmakers Karen Severns and Koichi Mori (known for their documentary about Frank Lloyd Wright in Japan), filming me painting Mr Richie. Footage taken will be included in the movie they are making about his life, Outside In: Donald Richie and Japan.

After the portraits were finished, we kept in touch, visiting a couple of exhibitions together and going for coffee. I found Mr Richie to be friendly, personable and encouraging – very alert, curious and sharp for a man in his 80s. He was generous enough to write the introduction to my catalogue of Japan paintings and drawings, which will accompany my solo exhibition at The Daiwa Anglo Japanese Foundation, London, January – March 2014.


Other pieces about  Carl Randall  on our website can be found here:

Carl Randall exhibiting at the 2012 Jerwood Drawing Prize Carl Randall exhibiting at the Mall Gallieries and the National Portrait Gallery Carl Randall awarded the BP Travel Award 2012 Carl Randall wins the Nomura Prize
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