Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties Center for Conservation Science
Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation
Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Koai TAKEMURA and Female Japanese-Style Painters in the Meiji Era – Seminar by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

Scene of Children's Education by Koai TAKEMURA in 1890, in the possession of Ochanomizu University
Picture of Lily by Koai TAKEMURA, in the possession of Ochanomizu University

 At the monthly seminar conducted by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on April 24th, 2018, a presentation was made, titled “Koai TAKEMURA and Female Japanese-Style Painters in the Meiji Era,” by Tai TADOKORO (Associate Fellow of the Department).
 Koai TAKEMURA was a female Japanese-style painter in the Meiji Era well known for her paintings of flowers, birds, and landscapes. While Koai is also considered a fine art educator now, her life and works as a painter have been scarcely revealed. Based on her diaries in the possession of the library of Kyoritsu Women’s University, this presentation unveiled her painting career focusing on her activities as a painter, along with a study of the aspects of other female painters’ activities in the Meiji era.
 Koai was born in Edo in 1852 as the daughter of a feudal retainer of Sendai Domain. Her real name was Chisa or Sada. She showed a keen interest in painting and pictures even as a child. She learned painting from Kazunobu KANO, Kinkoku YAMAMOTO, Nammei HARUKI, Togai KAWAKAMI, and other masters. Koai studied various schools of painting, and even produced Western-style works. Endowed with good English language skills, she assumed the post of assistant professor in English at Tokyo Women’s Normal School in 1876. From around 1877, as a professor in painting, she devoted herself to the education of women. In 1889, she joined the Japan Art Association. Her work, Yochihoiku-zu (Scene of Children’s Education), displayed at the exhibition of the Association held in the fall of the following year, was awarded the bronze prize, and the painting was bought by Prince Arisugawa Taruhito, the Honorary Patron of the Association. In April 1898, she resigned from the Tokyo Women’s Higher Normal School due to an illness. However, two months after her resignation, Keikanyuri-zu (Lily in the Valley), displayed in the first exhibition of the Japanese Painting Associateon, was highly commended as the best by Masao GEJO, honorary members of the Society, and Kampo ARAKI. In addition, Yuri-zu (Picture of Lily) was conferred the bronze prize in the women’s department of the Japan-British Exhibition of 1910. In this work, depth and spatial breadth were expressed in her use of weak/strong outlines, gradations of color, and layout of motifs.
 Koai also taught painting to her disciples at home, which totaled to almost 150 people including women and young ladies of peerage, as well as foreign women.
 Taking a close look at her activities, it is clear that women painters in the Meiji era had their own role and demand during the period. Against the activity on the center stage of the art world of showing paintings at exhibitions, their role was related to backstage activities.
Further research on the activities and interactions of female painters in this period will help reveal their actual situation, aspects of their social recognition, and their development toward prosperity during the Taisho era.

Seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems―Basic Research on Gyokuyo Kurihara

A subject of gossip by Gyokuro Kurihara 1914
The legend of Kiyohime, Woman by Gyokuyo Kurihara 1921

 Tai TADOKORO, the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems, gave a presentation entitled “Basic Research on Gyokuyo Kurihara: Her Life and Artworks” in the department on June 28th.
 The Japanese-style painter Gyokuyo Kurihara, who achieved success mainly in Bunten (art exhibition sponsored by the Ministry of Education) in the Taisho period, left many paintings of little girls and women based on theatrical plays. While alive, she was thought to be the best female painter in Tokyo and to be even comparable to Shoen Uemura in Kyoto. Today, however, she is not very famous and has been little studied. TADOKORO overviewed her achievements as a painter focusing on the works displayed in exhibitions and then discussed changes in the expression seen in her works and her status in the world of art at that time. As well as materials such as art magazines and exhibition catalogues, photographs of her works appearing in women’s magazines revealed years of creation and a history of display in exhibitions of many of her remaining works. By overviewing her artworks based on this information, TADOKORO found that Gyokuyo changed the subject of her paintings around 1916 from little girls to women based on theatrical plays. TADOKORO also pointed out that strong influence from one of her teachers, Eikyu Matsuoka, can be seen mainly in the colors of the works in her last years. In particular, TADOKORO suggested that she tried a unique, unprecedented expression in the use of gold paint. Besides these creations, it came to light that she had played a major role in the world of painters, especially female painters, at that time through training of many disciples and the foundation of Getsuyokai, an organization of female Japanese-style painters, in cooperation with other female painters.
 We invited Mr. Toshiaki GOMI, who is familiar with Gyokuyo, to this seminar as a commentator from the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture. Mr. Gomi gave us valuable information about the current situation of research on Gyokuyo, her remaining works in Nagasaki, and her descendants. In addition, together with Dr.Kaoru KOJIMA at Jissen Women’s University and Ms. Yuri YAMAMOTO at the Sakura City Museum of Art, attendants keenly discussed issues such as female painters and bijinga, pictures of beautiful women.

to page top