Mitsutani Kunishiro as an advocate of Goseda Studio – from his drawings formerly in the collection of the Art Research Institute

Mitsutani Kunishiro, Portrait. Collection of the Tokyo National Museum

 Mitsutani Kunishiro (1874?1936) is known as a western-style painter many of whose works were exhibited at the Bunten (exhibition by the then Ministry of Education) and the Teiten (exhibition by the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts) in Meiji, Taisho and Showa periods. Sketches he left were donated in 1938 to the Art Research Institute, the predecessor of the Institute. Most of them were landscape sketches called “Doro sansui” (road landscape) in the Meiji period and drawings for his works created during the Taisho period and displayed at exhibitions. Among them, one portrait drawn in pencil stands out prominently. In this sketch, the technique of cross-hatching is used where thin lines are crossed to flesh out the motif, and the face staring at us with one eye half-closed is full of self-consciousness. Since this work was innovative not only among Mitsutani’s works but also in the history of western-style paintings in the Meiji period, it had not been introduced until now. However, Mr. Tsunoda Takuro of the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History and Mr. Hirose Naruhisa of the Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art, in the process of their researches on Goseda Horyu/Yoshimatsu Studio that left a major mark on the western-style paintings in early part of the Meiji period, pointed out the possibility that this work may be positioned in that stream. They made a presentation on this topic at the seminar of the Department of Research Programming held on May 7. The date written on the bottom left corner of the drawing ? February 21 of the 25th year of Meiji (1892) – corresponds to the short period of only one year when Mitsutani learned as a pupil of Goseda school. This drawing may be positioned as a link between Goseda Studio and Mitsutani, and also as a work that may cause a stir in the art history of the Meiji period. This work, along with sketchbooks filled with similar portrayals using cross-hatching, will be exhibited in “All about the Goseda Studio -A Bridge to Modern Paintings in Japan” (August 9 – 31 and September 6 – 28, 2008 at the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History, and October 7 – November 9, 2008 at the Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art).

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