Kiyokata Kaburagi was a leading nihonga painter and kuchi-e artist. Born as Kenichi Kaburagi in 1878, Kiyokata belonged to a wealthy Tokyo family. His father was a founder of both Tokyo Nichinichi Shimbun as well as Yamato Shimbun, where Kiyokata encountered his first formal teacher. Toshikata Mizuno, was the student of Yoshitoshi and a staff illustrator for the Yamato Shinbun. Kiyokata began his training with Toshikata at age thirteen, before taking over his teacher’s position as the newspaper’s illustrator at age seventeen. While Toshikata tended towards historical subjects, Kiyokata was drawn to kuchi-e and the work of artists such as Hanko Kajita, Eisen Tomioka, and Keishu Takeuchi. Kiyokata established himself as a renowned illustrator, working for various publishers and journals as his popularity grew.
Like many woodblock print artists at the time, Kiyokata made a living through illustration but harbored a passion for painting. Today, Kiyokata is revered as a nihonga, or “Japanese-style painting” artist of bijin-ga, or "pictures of beautiful women." In 1901, he was founding member of ugokai, a group of artists focused on the revival of the bijin-ga genre. By 1907, he turned away from prints to focus on painting and participation in national arts exhibitions. In 1917, he promoted the training of young artists through the organization Kinreisha. Yet, Kiyokata’s connection to the woodblock medium remained strong through the artists of the Shin Hanga, or “New Print” movement. The famous Shin Hanga publisher Shozaburo Watanabe recruited heavily from Kiyokata’s painting students for Shin Hanga designs. Kiyokata played an active role, championing the print movement as he hosted exhibitions and introduced students such as Shinui, Shuho and Kotondo.
By his forties, Kiyokata’s artistic accomplishment was formally recognized through his membership to the Imperial Art Academy in 1929, the Art Committee of the Imperial Household in 1938, and later, the Order of Cultural Merit in 1954. In the 1930s and 1940s, he published eleven collections of his essays. Today, his work can be found in collections worldwide.
Ukiyo-e | Japanese Woodblock Prints | Ronin Gallery