Japan art and Kitano Tsunetomi: Impact of Osaka

Japan art and Kitano Tsunetomi: Impact of Osaka

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Kitano Tsunetomi (1880-1947) belongs to the Meiji, Taisho, and Showa periods in Japan. Despite being born in Kanazawa (Ishikawa Prefecture), he was influenced by the Osaka art scene. 

His first artistic studies entailed designing woodblock prints and carving. After this, he studied art under Inano Toshitsune, who taught ukiyo-e and nihonga art to many pupils. In time, he became a leading artist in the Osaka art scene – concerning his art and connections.

The British Museum reports, “Tsunetomi ended his life well known as a painter in the ‘Nihonga’ style, but his original training was in the business of woodblock printing. Born in Kanazawa, he went to Osaka in 1892 and was apprenticed to Nishida Suketaro, who was a preparer of ‘hanshita-e’, the final drawings used when cutting the blocks for woodblock prints. He also studied ‘Nanga’-style painting, sculpture and woodblock carving under various teachers before joining the carving section of the ‘Hokkoku shinpo’ newspaper in 1897, where he was able to study newspaper illustrations; but he soon returned to Osaka to study painting under Inano Toshitsune, a minor artist who was in a line from the ‘Ukiyo-e’ school.”

He was apprenticed at a very young age – difficult to imagine today in highly developed nations. However, this was the common reality of the day in this period of history. Hence, aged only 12, he began to learn the intricacies of aspects of ukiyo-e under Nishida Suketaro.

The Kyocera Museum of Art (Kyoto) says, “He became popular for decadent paintings of beautiful woman rendered with sensual emotion and punctilious expression, then steadily shifted to paintings of serene, elegant woman.”

One can imagine how the modernization of Osaka – and the surrounding region – influenced him. This concerns the richness of religion that makes Kyoto, Koyasan, and Nara tick. Therefore, modern artistic trends in Osaka – to the high culture of the surrounding region – entailed a rich contrast for this esteemed artist of beautiful ladies. 

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