ResearchResearch at Tokai

Research ExcellenceMedieval Art, especially Romanesque

From a biologist to an art historian: attracted to beauty

Professor Kanazawa specializes in Romanesque art. Her career is unique. She has PhDs; one in biology and the other in art history. Brought up in the U.K., she was deeply influenced by the BBC's programs on wildlife and attracted to the beauty of nature. Kanazawa decided to study ecology in university to seek ways to solve environmental issues. She was especially concerned about the loss of diversity due to tropical rainforest deforestation. As a fervent graduate student, she immersed herself in research on physiological ecology. On the other hand, Kanazawa says, she was also interested in acquiring the qualifications to be a curator. Between research projects, she also attended classes in the Faculty of Letters to acquire curator credentials. In one of the classes, there was a fateful encounter. She saw a large Romanesque tapestry depicting the worldview of the Middle Ages.

Since her high school days, Kanazawa has loved art as well as nature, and she said it was quite natural that her interest shifted to the way people see the world. “After I encountered this tapestry, my interest shifted to 'people and art.'" After Kanazawa got her PhD in botany, she re-entered the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

" Beauty always attracts me, whether it is of the wildlife or Art. I feel that I have to do something to stop them from disappearing due to human economic activity. The diversity of life and culture seems very important to me."

Romanesque sculpture is simple and adorable
The appeal of familiarity

Kanazawa specializes in medieval art, especially Romanesque art (the art and architecture of the 11th and 12th centuries). In Europe, there are fewer Romanesque churches in rich urban areas because many churches were rebuilt in the later Gothic period. "So for my research, I need to visit remote areas where the Romanesque churches are intact," said Kanazawa. "The Gothic period, which followed the Romanesque period, is when mass production began.

During the Romanesque period, church buildings were small and cozy. Every one of them is unique in the sense that they are all specially made for the people who use them. Infinite variety of capital sculpture flourished during Romanesque period. "I feel at home in a Romanesque church. It is designed to fit the human senses. Stone sculpture ‘speaks' to us, body to body. Such closeness is an irresistible charm for me," said Kanazawa.

'What I can do is to admire and convey the charm to people.'

Kanazawa also energetically publishes her work. She newly published a book on Romanesque art, “Revolution of Art in Romanesque" and directs a series of publications from Shinchosha Publishing called "Medioevo in Italia", on medieval churches in Italy. Also, she participates in the cultural project “Seika" as a co-editor. The project not only publishes the art and antique journal "Kogei Seika"(Shinchosha) three times a year, but holds courses in Christian Art, Greek and Roman Mythology, and Japanese Culture (tea ceremony and folk art). "Because most of the Romanesque art is in the churches there might be fewer chances for people to see it. What I can do is visit them, admire, and convey the charm to people through my writing and lecturing. From 2008, with the editor/photographer of “Seika", we set up a project visiting Romanesque churches throughout Europe. It will take us at least 15 years to complete! It will be wonderful if our activity leads to the acknowledgement of their importance."

Kanazawa's pursuit continues.

Professor Momo Kanazawa

Born in 1968 in Tokyo. She spent her childhood in New Delhi, India. She was educated in London, U.K. before she came back to Japan for university.

In 1997, she received a Ph.D. in Botany from the University of Tokyo, and in 2007, she received another Ph.D. in Art History from Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the University of Tokyo. In 2009 she became an associate professor in the Department of European Civilization, School of Letters, Tokai University. Kanazawa has been in her current post since April 2014. Her many publications include "The Romanesque Universe: Reading the Tapestry of Creation of Girona" (2008, University of Tokyo Press), “Revolution of Art in Romanesque"(Shinchosha, 2015), and the "Medioevo in Italia" series (co-author, Shinchosha, 2010, 2011, 2012). Currently she is writing essays on the Romanesque Art of Northern Spain in "Kogei Seika" (Shinchosha).