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Kikuchi Keigetsu (1879-1955)


Biographical Data


Biography

 
undated photo of artist
Kikuchi Keigetsu 菊池契月 (1879-1955)

Source: Artists of World War II, Barbara McCloskey, Greenwood Press, 2005
Kikuchi Keigetsu was born in 1879 the son of a village official in Nagano Prefecture. His name at birth was Hosono Kanji 細野完爾. In 1892, at the age of 13, he began studying nanga painting with Kodama Katei (1841-1913) in Kyoto. In 1896, he continued his studies in Tokyo, eventually enrolling in the private studio of master painter Kikuchi Hobun (1862-1918), whose daughter he married in 1906. Keigetsu gained attention in the years before World War I when several of his works won awards at prominent exhibitions, including the Bunten. He began to emerge as a major nihonga artist, known for his austere imagery, exacting use of line, and preference for historical themes.

In 1910, Keigetsu began to work as Kikuchi Hobun’s teaching assistant at the
Kyoto Municipal Special School of Painting.  Contact at the school with other prominent artists and exposure to courses in art history and anatomy invigorated Keigetsu’s work.  His art began to explore scenes of contemporary life, fairytale imagery, and decorative bird and flower genres.

From 1918 onwards, Keigetsu regularly served as a judge of Bunten and Teiten exhibits, thus becoming a fixture of the gadan, or art establishment.  In 1922 and 1923, Keigetsu traveled in Europe, where he was attracted not to the contemporary art scene, but rather to Europe’s fine collections of Renaissance painting and ancient Egyptian sculpture.  His travels inspired him to pursue further research into Japan’s past artistic traditions.

After the reform of the Teiten in 1935-1936 and the institution of the Shin-Bunten in 1937, Keigetsu began to distance himself from the official art world.  His work continued to appear in private art exhibitions, however, and addressed themes appropriate to the country’s nationalist sentiment.  Several of his works, including Welcoming the Imperial Carriage from 1943, depict Japan’s military heroes of the past as models for current patriotic behavior.

In the postwar years, Keigetsu’s nihonga art fell out of favor among a Japanese public who now saw such works as contributing to Japan’s disastrous nationalist fervor in World War II.1 Kikuchi Keigetsu died in 1955.

1 Yet, a year after his death the Museum of Modern Art Tokyo held a retrospective exhibition of his work.

Recent Exhibition

Source: Mie Prefectural Art Museum website http://www.pref.mie.jp/bijutsu/hp/English/Exhibitions/E_Keigetsu.htm
Mie Prefectural Art Museum -KIKUCHI Keigetsu. the 130th Anniversary of his Birth 
(5 September to 12 October 2009)
KIKUCHI Keigetsu (1879-1955) is known as a Japanese-style painter whose figure painting expresses at the same time gracefulness and assuredness. Keigetsu was active in Kyoto from the latter half of Meiji period till the beginning of Showa period, but his works still attract us more than 50 years after his death.

Keigetsu was born at the present Nakano city of the Nagano prefecture, and there learned southern-style painting from KODAMA Katei. On 1896 he went to Kyoto and became a pupil of KIKUCHI Hobun next year. He learned authentic discipline based on Shijo school, and winning various prizes, came into public attention as a promising painter in the artists’ world of Kyoto. After traveling in Europe, he constantly produced serene and graceful works harmonizing occidental painting and Yamato-e, and established his position. On the other hand, as a teacher he brought up many artists such as UDA Tekison and KAJIWARA Hisako.  

Commemorating 130th anniversary of his birth, this exhibition presents representative works by Keigetsu from his early days to late years, with recently-found works, copies during his stay in Europe and sketchbooks.

Simultaneously we provide a section featuring UDA Tekison, born at Matsuzaka and one of Keigetsu’s pupils. Both painters were born at the provinces, but at Kyoto were recognized by their respectively characteristic styles. We would like you to enjoy their playing together.

A Sampling of the Artist's Signatures and Seals