Japan art and Goyō Hashiguchi: Death bed art

Japan art and Goyō Hashiguchi: Death bed art

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist, Goyō Hashiguchi (1880-1921), died relatively young. Hence, his deteriorating health succumbed to complications from meningitis. In the field of Shin Hanga – a revivalist artistic movement steeped in the traditions of ukiyo-e – he designed only 14 prints during the late stages of his life. However, despite the number being extremely small, these exquisite Shin Hanga prints are extremely potent.

Goyō was born in Kagoshima. His early artistic dealings concerned the Kano painting school of art. His father was his early mentor. After moving to Tokyo, he studied oil painting from Western traditions and graduated in 1905.

He had a deep knowledge of ukiyo-e artists. Hence, in scholarship style, he wrote about Harunobu, Hiroshige, and Utamaro.

The British Museum says, “…he met the publisher Watanabe Shozaburo, for whom he designed a print (‘Bath’, 1915) which was virtually the first of the ‘Shin Hanga’ movement, but wishing to have complete control over all the processes he published his subsequent prints himself… (a) handful of superbly produced prints of beautiful women have some of the stately sensuality of his model Kitagawa Utamaro (1754-1806). A small group of print designs unfinished at his early death were later published by his family.”

His health deteriorated rapidly in the last months of 1920. This concerns his poor health developing into meningitis. Hence, with little time left on this earth, he still focused on art from his death bed. Therefore, his strength of character – despite such adversity – highlights the importance of art to Goyō.

The last art piece (art below) he was involved in was titled Hot Spring Hotel. He supervised this from his death bed (he couldn’t complete the art piece personally). Thus, with pain engulfing his daily life and the death knell of his life approaching, he left this world with an amazing last art piece.

Indeed, the utter beauty of his last supervised art piece is a treasure to behold. Therefore, while melancholy might have existed in his mind, the beauty of life still emerges despite Goyō being in the clutches of death.




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