Japan House London celebrates award-winning storyteller and illustrator, Anno Mitsumasa

Anno Mitsumasa

As galleries and museums around the world find new ways to represent their artists during lockdown, Japan House London has launched its first virtual exhibition, celebrating a lifetime of work by Anno Mitsumasa.

Perhaps as beloved in Japan as the illustrator Quentin Blake is in the UK, Anno is a prolific storyteller and award-winning illustrator who has produced picture books and imaginative paintings for over 50 years. The exhibition, Anno's Journey: The World of Anno Mitsumasa, includes 89 artworks by Anno in a variety of media from watercolours, Japanese-style paintings using powder pigment on silk (Nihonga) to papercuts.

The virtual exhibition presents the artworks as if you're inside Japan House London. Powered by 3D technology, you can zoom in on each painting and caption, and move around the space at your own pace. There's also a sensory experience that transports you to Japan, as well as moments in Anno's life. From the noise of the steam train which runs through the town where he was born through to the sounds of cicadas and crickets which become ubiquitous in Japan in late summer/early autumn when the exhibition first featured at the space.

Split into various themes of his work, we especially like the section Anno's Britain, which includes Big Ben, St Paul's Cathedral, Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and the Cotswolds reflects Anno's travels across Britain in the 1970s.

Working with ink and watercolour as well as papercuts, Anno's stories cover everything from maths and science through to language and folklore. His picture books show a profound understanding of the way children's minds work, presenting complex subjects in engaging, easily understandable ways.

Simon Wright from Japan House London said: "The works of Anno Mitsumasa mirror the Japanese social attitudes throughout the Shōwa period and are a fascinating insight into a changing world. As many Japanese people have grown up with his books in their childhood homes, they are very familiar with his often humorous and playful illustrations. Despite his popularity in Japan, he is, however, little known in the UK, and we thought it about time we present his genius."

Anno's Journey: The World of Anno Mitsumasa Virtual exhibition will be displayed permanently online at www.japanhouselondon.uk.

Memories of Tsuwano (Tsuwano no kioku) (Courtesy of Anno Art Museum)

Memories of Tsuwano (Tsuwano no kioku) (Courtesy of Anno Art Museum)

A: 'A' for Anpan (Red bean bun) from 'The A-I-U-E-O Book' (Courtesy of Anno Art Museum, Tsuwano)

A: 'A' for Anpan (Red bean bun) from 'The A-I-U-E-O Book' (Courtesy of Anno Art Museum, Tsuwano)

Illustration from Fushigi na e (lit.'Mysterious Pictures') (Courtesy of Anno Art Museum, Tsuwano)

Illustration from Fushigi na e (lit.'Mysterious Pictures') (Courtesy of Anno Art Museum, Tsuwano)

Ladle Tadpole (Otama) from 'Fantasy Workshop Picture Book' (Courtesy of Anno Art Museum, Tsuwano)

Ladle Tadpole (Otama) from 'Fantasy Workshop Picture Book' (Courtesy of Anno Art Museum, Tsuwano)

Pages 20&21 from 'Anno's Journey' (Courtesy of Anno Art Museum, Tsuwano)

Pages 20&21 from 'Anno's Journey' (Courtesy of Anno Art Museum, Tsuwano)

Scene 7 from 'The Tale of Old Man Who Made Trees Blossom' (Courtesy of Anno Art Museum, Tsuwano)

Scene 7 from 'The Tale of Old Man Who Made Trees Blossom' (Courtesy of Anno Art Museum, Tsuwano)

Hōrin-ji, Arashiyama (Arashiyama hōrin-ji) from ‘In and Around The Capital’ (Courtesy of Mori no naka no ie, Anno Mitsumasa Art Museum, Wakuden)

Hōrin-ji, Arashiyama (Arashiyama hōrin-ji) from ‘In and Around The Capital’ (Courtesy of Mori no naka no ie, Anno Mitsumasa Art Museum, Wakuden)