Japanese Painters who Portrayed India


Since the late 19th century, India and Japan have shown interests in each other, beginning with Swami Vivekananda’s visit in 1893. Continuing well into the 20th and 21st century, further visits by Japanese artists in particular, have ensued.

The following article by Anindya Kundu documents some of the Japanese artists who have visited India and portrayed her in their artwork.

Interestingly, the exchanges were most frequent and strongest during the Tagore-Taikan period. Most of the artists documented below were Nihonga artists.

Touching souls: Painters who portrayed India

India has a long history of cultural relations with Japan. It started in 1902 through a historical meeting between two great intellectuals, Tenshin Okakura and Rabindranath Tagore in Calcutta. Tenshin, the Forerunner of Japan-Bangla relationship, was deeply impressed by the revivalist movement on culture and arts, going on at that time in Kolkata. On returning to Japan he sent two distinguished artists, Yokoyama Taikan and Hishida Shunso to Kolkata, where they met Rabindranath Tagore and Abonindranath Tagore and exchanged opinions and artistic views. The relation further enhanced by the five visits of Rabindranath to Japan (1916, 1917, 1924, 1929-twice). Since then there have been an intimate and lingering cultural and artistic tie between the two countries. These encounters had brought into contact a remarkable group of intellectuals and artists of Japan and Bengal. They not only influenced Indian artists but also got influenced by the new line initiated in Bengal and gave contemporary Japanese art an Indian touch.
The paintings presented here represent the impressions the Japanese painters received while they were in India and have been produced by the characteristic method of the Japanese Art.
Nanpu Katayama:
Shokin Katsuta:
Kosetsu Nosu:
Portrait of Tagore by Kosetsu Nosu with Tagore’s autographed poem.
The Enlightenment of Buddha under a Sacred Fig (Bo tree) while attacked by Mara devils, the wall painting of Kosetsu Nosu, Mulagandha Kuti Vihara Buddhist temple founded in 1931, Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Yokoyama Taikan(1868-1958):
Taikan was born in Mito city, Ibaraki Prefecture. He entered the Tōkyō Bijutsu Gakko in 1889 and graduated in 1893. There, he studied under the Kano school artist Hashimoto Gahō and had classmates who would also become leaders in Nihonga, Shunso Hishida, Kanzan Shimomura, and Kogetsu Saigo.
After graduation, Taikan spent a year teaching at “Kyoto Shiritsu Bijutsu Kogei Gakko” in Kyoto. He returned to Tōkyō in 1896 as assistant professor at the Tōkyō Bijutsu Gakko, but resigned only a year later together with Tenshin Okakura because of a confrontation in the school and joined Okakura in establishing the Japan Fine Arts Academy (Nihon Bijutsuin).In 1914, Yokoyama along with Kanzan Shimomura concentrated on reviving the Nihon Bijutsuin (The Japan Fine Arts Academy) which had closed down upon Okakura Kakuzo’s death in 1913.Taikan Yokoyama was an important leader in the Nihonga, or “Japanese traditional” school of modern Japanese art. He was extremely influential in the evolution of the Nihonga technique, having departed from the traditional use of the line drawing. His style was called “Mourou-tai (Blurred style)”.
His trip to India, jointly with Hishida inspired some of Yokoyama’s most important work.He became a teishitsu gigeiin (imperial artist) in 1931. In 1935, he was appointed as a member of Teikoku Bijutsuin (the forerunner of the Japan Art Academy), and in 1937, He was one of the first persons to be awarded the Order of Culture.
Kampo Arai (1878-1945):
Kampo Arai was born in Ujiiie of Tochigi prefecture. Enamoured by the paintings of Yokoyama Taikan and Kanzan Shimomura, the two most famous Japanese ‘Nihonga’ painters of the period, Rabindranath Tagore, during his stay in Japan in 1916, wished to have a few of their works copied for him to take back home. Arai, a painter of the Nihon Bijutsuin at that time, was commissioned by Tomitaro Hara (an art connoisseur) to copy two paintings by tailkan and Kanzan for Tagore to be taken to India. Arai Kampo copied the paintings and came to Kolkata in 1916 on Rabindranath Tagore’s invitation.He visited Calcutta and Santiniketan and travelled around India from 1916 to 1918.
Portrait of Tagore by Kampo Arai
Akino Fuku (1908-2001):
Akino Fuku was one of the three great Japanese women painters. She began her study of Nihonga under Suisho Nishiyama in 1929. And her work was first accepted by Teiten in 1930.After the World War II, Akino decided to leave Japan Fine Arts Exhibition (Nitten) and participated in the foundation of Sozo Bijutsu (the present Soga-kai), non-official group of Japanese painters, with Uemura Shoko, Fukuda Toyoshiro and Yoshioka Kenji among others. In 1962 she was invited as a visiting professor of Visva-Bharati University in India and spent one year there. This experience gave her painting a new scale. She found herself drawn to India. Famous for her landscapes of the eternal soil of India and for her vivid portraiture of the people living there, she created new horizon for the Japanese style painting.
Ikuo Hirayama (1952 – 2009):
Ikuo Hirayama, one of the Japan’s most celebrated painters was born in Setoda-chō, Hiroshima Prefecture. In 1952, he graduated from the Tōkyō School of Art (today’s Tōkyō National University of Fine Arts and Music, popularly known as “Geidai”). His 1959 work “Bukkyo Denrai” depicting an ancient Buddhist monk who introduced Buddhism to Japan, first gave him widespread recognition. A traditional Nihonga-style painter, Hirayama’s career has been built largely on his Buddhist-themed paintings, as well as “fantasy” and “the holy dream.” The paintings epitomize a sense of hopefulness and cooperation, peace and tranquillity.
His Silk Road paintings convey Hirayama’s belief that the road, with its exchange of commerce and ideas, showed that cultures can interact constructively. Hirayama’s efforts to create beauty have reached well beyond the canvas. As a campaigner for the preservation and restoration of the world’s cultural heritage and recognition of the importance of these sites, he devoted much of his resources and energies. As an honorary UNESCO ambassador, he has travelled the world promoting and personally funding the preservation of historic Silk Road sites.
Nishida Shun’ei (April 20, 1953):
Pushkar no Rojin
Under a Linden
Nishida Shun’ei was born in Ise city, Mie prefecture, in 1953 Born. In 1977, he graduated from Musashino Art University, Department of Japanese Painting. There he studied under Togyu Okumura, Hideo Shiode. Nishida was greatly inspired by Indian culture and in 1993 came here to study painting as an overseas research personnel of the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs. Whilst in India he was shifted to portraiture and in 1995 received the Nihon Bijutsuin (Japan Art Institute) Award as well as the newly established Adachi Museum of Art Award for “Pushkar no Rojin” (Old man of Pushkar), depicting the face of an Indian village chief. In 1996 he won the Tenshin Memorial Ibaraki Award for “Jakko” (Serene Light) depicting a young monk of Ladakh. 1998 Shun’ei was recommended for member of Nihon-bijutsuin. Currently he is working as a professor of Hiroshima City University.
Korehiko HINO:
Korehiko Hino, the well known contemporary Japanese painters, was born in Ishikawa in 1976. He graduated from University of Tsukuba, majoring in Western painting and then completed his masters in 2001 from there. Currently he is attached with the Tama University of Fine Art as an instructor. Hino has built up a solid reputation both in Japan and abroad. His pictures depict amazingly expressionless human forms with really big, creepy eyes. It is difficult to make out whether they are adults or children and therefore they grow the anxiety which all of us in the contemporary era sense in a vague, nebulous way. In 2006, Hino visited Santiniketan in India.
The article has been written by Anindya Kundu on http://translation-anindya.blogspot.com/. Anindya is a Japanese language teacher and translator of Japanese living in Kolkatta, India.

5 comments on “Japanese Painters who Portrayed India

  1. Ajinkya vaidya says:

    Rangoli painting of Akino Fuku is superb!!!

  2. Thank you Ajinkya san for your comment.

  3. ayon kumar says:

    totemo suteki desu, anindya san

  4. 非常に面白い記事。日本人、日本画の芸術家がインドの題材を描いたことを知りませんでした。インド人画家だけ日本画と水墨画から影響されたと思いました。 A very interesting article! I did know that also Japanese nihonga artists depicted Indian subjects. I thought that only Indian artists were influenced by nihonga and suibokuga.

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