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Kōno Bairei (1844-1895)


Biographical Data

BIOGRAPHY

Kōno Bairei 幸野楳嶺 (1844-1895)
Sources: International Fine Print Dealers Association website http://www.printdealers.com/content/node/177; The Samurai Archives SamuraiWiki http://wiki.samurai-archives.com/index.php?title=Kono_Bairei and as footnoted.
Kono Bairei (undated photo)
Born March 3, 1844 in Kyoto, and originally named Yasuda Bairei, Kōno Bairei was one of the leading practitioners of the ukiyo-e school devoted to pictures of birds and flowers (kacho-ga) in the Meiji period.  Unlike the majority of ukiyo-e artists, he was trained as a classical Japanese painter.  As a child, Bairei studied with Nakajima Raishō (1796-1871), a Maruyama school artist, and in his late twenties, with Shiokawa Bunrin (1808-1877) of the Shijō school.1

In 1873, he was invited to show his work at the second Kyoto Exposition and he would go on to show at other Expositions.  Through these Expositions Bairei attracted the attention of the abbot of Higashi Honganji, Ōtani Kōshō, who patronized Bairei and took him along on journeys to Kyushu in 1877 and the Kantō in 1885.

Along with Kubota Beisen (1852-1906)2, Mochizuki Gyokusen (1834-1913) and a few others, he co-founded the Kyoto Prefectural Painting School in 1878. The Kyoto University of Arts which operates today has its origins in

this school. Bairei headed the Northern School section for a brief time, before a dispute with another artist and teacher Suzuki Hyakunen (1825-1891) led to both men leaving. He would return again in 1888, and leave once again in 1890 amid controversy over changes he proposed.

In 1886, along with Kubota Beisen, he founded the Kyoto Young Painters Study Group, aimed at helping train and promote young painters with a focus on talent rather than lineage. The group was successful for a brief time, but controversy once again erupted and the group was dissolved and Bairei left Kyoto for Nagoya for much of the 1880s.

Returning to Kyoto, Bairei collaborated with Beisen again, founding the Kyoto Art Association, launching one of the city's first arts journals, and establishing the first major competitive painting exhibition in the city, the "Exhibition of New and Old Art," in 1895.

As one of the foremost artists of his day, Bairei had about 60 apprentices in his studio named Ryōuin-juku ('the atelier of the transcending cloud')3, including Kikuchi Hōbun, Kawai Gyokudō, Uemura Shoen, Takeuchi Seihō (1864-1942) (Bairei's most famous student) and the recently rediscovered Tsuji Kakō (1871-1931).He is said to have been a stern instructor and quite harsh at times.

Though at first woodblock prints were only an afterthought, Bairei eventually designed woodblocks for illustrated books and produced a number of series of prints, such as Bairei hyakuchō gafu (Bairei's Album of 100 Birds); Bairei kachō gafu (Bairei's Album Flowers and Birds) whichdepicted birds and flowers in the four seasons, and Bairei Gakan (Mirror of Bairei Paintings) which depicts animals, birds, insects, flowers, landscapes, Mt. Fuji and more.  His kacho-ga as having "a faint touch of Western realism."4

In February of the twenty-fourth year of Meiji (1891 A. D.) Bairei suddenly announced his retirement from the art world, and the next year he sent Landscape in Autumn to the World Fair held in Chicago. Later Bairei traveled with Bishop Kosho of Higashi-hongan-ji Temple, Kyoto, on the latter's preaching tour.  In 1893 Bairei became a member of the Art Committee of the Imperial Household.  In the twenty-seventh year of Meiji (1894) he was commissioned to paint murals in Higashi-hongan-ji Temple, Tokyo, and died the next year upon completion of this work.6


1
Background on Maruyama-Shij
ō school of art - The Maruyama school of painting derives from Maruyama Ōkyu (1733-95) who integrated the Kyoto decorative manner with a high degree of naturalistic realism.  Aware of Western perspective, he advised his pupils to study directly from nature.  The Shijō school of painting, founded by Matsumura Goshun (1752-1811), added a degree of poetic idealism to Ōkyu's realism.  (Source: "One of Seiho's Lions," Eric van den Ing, Andon 61, Society for Japanese Arts, Leiden, 1999, p. 4.)
2 Beisen, eight year's younger than Bairei, was a student of Bairei's.
3 op. cit. Eric van den In.

4 "Kako Tsuji: Free from Schools with Zen's help," C. B. Liddell, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007, The Japan Times Online
5
A Dictionary of Japanese Artists: Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics, Prints, Lacquer, Laurance P. Roberts, Weatherhill, 1976, p. 8.
6 "Bairei Kono and his work," Masahiro Misumi, 1937 online at http://www.tobunken.go.jp/~bijutsu/english/publications/bijutukenkyu/abstract/62.html

An American's Visit to Bairei's Studio

Source: Japan Day by Day, 1877, 1878-79, 1882-83 (Volume 2), Edward Sylvester Morse, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1917, p. 260, 261, 301.

Today (August 8) I visited the artist Bairei to employ him to make a copy of a picture he had painted for Rokubei, the potter, illustrating the process of pottery-making. I found Mr. Bairei, who is a teacher, in the midst of a class of pupils, who were busy with their work, all on the floor with their copies in front of them , many of them being boys of twelve or younger. Some of the older pupils, he told me, had been with him for ten years. The pupils come at eight o'clock in the morning, leaving at noon in the summer and at 5 P.m. in the winter, every day except Sunday, which has lately become a holiday. The price of tuition is thirty cents a month, and the teacher supplies paper, brushes, ink, colors, etc. In three years the pupils learn to copy well. The first lessons consist of simple lines, diaper work, and the like. The next year they paint flowers; after that mountains and scenery; and finally figures, first drawing drapery, then the nude figure from life. Some of the pupils come from the artisan class, such as potters and others whose occupations demand designs or decoration; the other pupils come from the samurai class. Mr. Bairei has twenty pupils in his daily class, besides a few who practice at their houses and bring their work to him once a week for criticism. After an interesting interview I rose from my knees. All the pupils immediately bowed low, and at the same time Mr. Bairei presented me with a large roll of paper which consisted of the exercises of the school for that day: beautiful drawings in strong, vigorous brush strokes of flowers, fruit, and boats. These drawings illustrate better than all the descriptions the methods of teaching and the proficiency of the young Japanese.

I again visited Bairei's drawing-school and house, and for two hours enjoyed watching the deft way in which the pupils work. It seemed an awkward position to be down on the floor with knees bent under the body, yet Bairei told me that the pupils would hold this position for hours apparently without fatigue. The work consists in copying from other drawings. Much of the preliminary work is done by tracing and in every case a brush is used. The paper is not thin enough to see the drawing distinctly, and so it is lifted up at almost every . touch of the brush. The paper is held down by a paper-weight at the head of the sheet. In beginning, the brush is filled with the paint, a proper point is made by trying the brush on another sheet, and if there is too much paint it is sucked out of the brush at the base, so as not to spoil the point.

Bairei Hyakuchō Gafu and Hyakuchō Gafu Zoku Hen

Source: Website of The Cowell-Thackray collection of Japanese prints and e-hon http://japaneseprints.wikispaces.com/Bairei%27s100+Birds and as footnoted.
Hyakuchō Gafu (Bairei's Album of 100 Birds) was first published in three volumes in 1881 by Okura Magobei and was followed by three additional, or supplemental, volumes in 1884, under the title Hyakuchō Gafu Zoku Hen 楳嶺百鳥画譜 続編.  The three volumes of each set were subtitled Sky (Ten 天); Earth (Chi 地) and People (Hito 人) with the "Zoku Hen" or supplement character on the title slips on the Supplemental series.  The Supplemental volumes contained 83 woodblocks.

Writing in 1897, Edward Strange praised Hyakuchō Gafu as “perhaps the best illustrations of bird-life ever cut on wood.  They are printed each from six or seven blocks, the shading even of the drawing being to some extent thus provided for, instead of having been left to the skill of the printer."1

1 Japanese Illustration: A History of the Arts of Wood-cutting and Colour, Edward Fairbrother Strange, London, G. Bell and sons, 1897, p. 105.


Descriptive Information Hyakuchō Gafu
Source: Website of Baxley Stamps http://www.baxleystamps.com/litho/meiji/1881060329.shtml

Volume 1 Sky (Ten 天) - 36 different birds depicted on 43 pages (21 1/2 folded pages) of color woodblocks (7 illustrations span two adjoining pages while 29 are single page). There are an additional 5 pages with Japanese text only (includes inside the covers). In total 48 pages or 23 folded pages and two single pages.

Volume 2 Earth (Chi 地) - 32 different birds depicted on 44 pages (22 folded pages) of color woodblocks (12 illustrations span two adjoining pages while 20 are single page). There are an additional 4 pages with Japanese text only (includes inside the covers). In total 48 pages or 23 folded pages and two single pages.

Volume 3 People (Hito 人) - no descriptive information found



 
Hyakuch
ō Gafu
Volume 1 Sky (Ten 天), 1881
cover
 
Hyakuchō Gafu
Volume 2 Earth (Chi 地)
, 1881
cover
 
Hyakuchō Gafu
Volume 3 People (Hito), 1881
cover

 
Hyakuchō Gafu
Volume 1 Sky (Ten 天), 1881
unread birds
 
Hyakuchō Gafu
Volume 2 Earth (Chi 地), 1881
Flamingo? 紅鶴
 
Hyakuchō Gafu
Volume 3 People (Hito), 1881
Shrike 伯劳


 
Hyakuchō Gafu Zoku Hen
Volume 2 Earth (Chi 地), 1884
cover


 
Hyakuchō Gafu Zoku Hen, 1884
unknown volume
Domestic chicken 家鷄
 
Hyakuchō Gafu Zoku Hen, 1884
unknown volume
Japanese pheasant 江南雉
 
Hyakuchō Gafu Zoku Hen, 1884
unknown volume
Crow 烏?


An Ornothologist's View

Source:  "A note on the Album of a hundred birds by Kono Bairei, a nineteenth century artist, with new light on the ‘Avid Indica’ of Collaert," A.S. Cheke appearing in Archives of Natural History (1983) 11 (2): p. 291-297.

Bairei, published two series of the Hundred Birds, the first in Meiji 14 (1881) and the second in Meiji 17 (1884).  Each is in three volumes numbered in the traditional Japanese manner, ten (heaven), chi (earth) and jin (man).  Most of the species depicted are Japanese wild birds, but there are some domesticated forms and imported cage-birds such as waders, larks, pipits, and buntings accompanied by a now obsolete Japanese name. Bairei sporadically gave the wrong name to perfectly well-drawn and identifiable birds.

Kōno Bairei appears to have worked largely from life.  Unlike some of Bairei’s small birds, his large birds are mostly excellent, unmistakably identifiable and accurately to scale. [N]ot all the birds depicted are native to Japan.  Most of the exotic forms are well-known cage-birds (for example, parrots, Java sparrows, Padda oryzivora, Bengalese finch, Lonchura (striata) ‘domestica’), albeit mostly shown in a free-flying setting, but some are less obviously so (Hypsipetes madagascariensis; an apparent Ficedula parva), so Bairei may have used foreign sources or even visited other countries himself.


Bairei Kachō Gafu

Sources: Website of J. Noel Chiappa http://mercury.lcs.mit.edu/~jnc/prints/bairei.html and website of Artelino Japanese Prints http://www.artelino.com/archive/archivesearch_show.asp?act=go&ars=46&cay=1&date_yyyy=0&exc=&evt=120&pp=5&pp1=1&ped=0&rp=44&rp1=1&rp2=44&lvl=2&sea=&sor=itm_artist_id%20DESC,%20itm_item_id%20DESC&sou=itemarchivem&suy=0&sut=0&tee=0

Bairei Kachō Gafu 楳嶺花鳥画譜 (Bairei’s Book of Birds and Flowers) first published by Okura Magobei in Meiji 16 (1883) and then re-published posthumously in Meiji 32 (1899) by Ohkura Shoten, used four different engravers and was often bound into volumes, either as four separate volumes or two volumes for spring/summer and autumn/winter. 


 
Bairei Kacho Gafu; Aki, Fuyu
(Autumn and Winter), 1881
cover

 
Bairei Kacho Gafu, 1883
 
Bairei Kacho Gafu, 1883

Bairei Gakan


Bairei Gakan 梅嶺画鑑 (Mirror of Bairei Paintings or Drawing Methods of Bairei) was originally published in seven volumes in 1903 by Shigemoto Ryonosuke.

 





 

 

 

 
 

 
Volumes, cover and prints from Bairei Gakan, 1903 edition
(Note centerfold in each print, absent in the two prints in my collection)


Bairei gakan (Illustrated book by Bairei): Kono bairei, illustrator, 7 vols. complete, 1913,
each contains 15 double-page illustrations (Hara Shobo Japanese Ukiyo-e Prints)


Bairei gakan 1982 reprint by Unsodo


Various Editions of Bairei Gakan


Both 1903 and 1913 have been cited as the original publication date for the seven volumes comprising the complete Bairei Gakan 梅嶺画鑑.  Based on information I have culled from the web (see below table), there appears to have been at least three editions of Bairei Gakan released.  The first was released in 1903 by the publisher Shigemoto, the second in 1913 by the Kyoto publisher Unsodo, who re-issued the work in 1982 in a larger format.  Both the 1903 and 1913 editions were issued in a format with an overall size of approximately 22 x 13.5 cm.  (8 5/8 x 5 1/3 in.) with each print measuring approximately 20 x 26 cm. (7 7/8 x 10 1/4 in.) and being folded in half to fit in the book.

 
Source Date of Publication
Publisher 
 Size  Notes
 Los Angeles County Museum of Art
 1913  not listed
 8 3/8 x 5 5/16 x 1 1/2 in. (21.27 x 13.34 x 3.81 cm)  
 The British Museum
 1903  not listed
 not listed
 
 National Library of Australia
 1913  Kyōto-shi : Unsōdō  21 cm (8 1/4 in.)
Title from label on cover.  Each volume is 1 folded sheet, in case. Other Authors - Yamada, Naosaburō 山田直三郎
Also Titled - Bairei ekagami.
 Hanshan Tang Books LTD  1913  Unsodo (Kyoto, Japan)  20x13 cm. Each volume with a title page, list of contents and 15 double page colour woodblock prints. A total of 105 double page prints. 7 vols. Accordion-style. Decorative paper covers. Original cloth case.
 Christie's Auction House
(November 24, 1997)
 1913  Unsodo
Editor, Yamada Shinzaburo
 22 x 13.5cm  Covers printed with scrolling-patterned wheels. Contents: each with one double-page table of contents and fifteen double-page illustrations of various subjects: vols. 1-4, the first double page with calligraphy dated Meiji 37 (1904); vol. 7: inside back cover with colophon, signed and dated as above (7)
 Morra Japanese Art
 1913  Unsodo, Kyoto  21,5x13,4 cm.  Seven orion albums.  Reference, listed in the Unsodo’s catalogue of 1915 under no.281 and 339.
 Antiquariaat Junk

 1903 Published by Shigemoto
Ryonosuke, Osaka,
Meiji 36 [1903]. Printed by Chinzei Kamematsu
 217 x 132mm  
printed plates measuring 220 x 265mm. 7 orihon folding albums in green brocade covered boards. (Prints shown above are from this issue.)
 World Cat
 1982   Kyōto-shi : Unsōdō,  22 x 28 cm.  Colophon title. In sutra binding style. Kaitei edition

Listings for Bairei Gakan

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Kono Bairei (Japan, 1844-1895)
Bairei Gakan, 1913
Book/manuscript/album, Color woodblock print books, 8 3/8 x 5 1/4 x 1 1/2 in. (21.3 x 13.4 x 1.1 cm) each
Gift of Marilyn and Robert Ravicz (AC1992.233.1.1-.6)


The British Museum
 
Title (object): Bairei gakan 楳嶺画鑑 (Mirror of Bairei Paintings)
Materials: paper
Techniques: woodblock
Production person: Print artist Kono Bairei (幸野楳嶺) 
Production place: Published in Osaka-shi
Date: 1903
Period/Culture: Meiji Era
Registration number: 1991,1112,0.74

Catalog of HANSHAN TANG BOOKS LTD, London, UK
312 Bairei: BAIREI GAKAN. (A Survey of Bairei’s Work). 梅 鑒. Kyoto, 1913. Each volume with a title page, list of contents and 15 double page colour woodblock prints. A total of 105 double page prints. 7 vols. 20x13 cm. Accordion-style. Decorative paper covers. Original cloth case.
£3,250.00
A beautiful work in very fine condition demonstrating the full range of the artistry of the Meiji woodblock artist, Kono Bairei, best known for his illustrated books showing birds and flowers. Here, however, Bairei’s work shows much more, from scenes of Fuji, animals and landscape scenes to illustrations of scholars and painters and, of course, scenes from nature — birds, insects and flowers. The seven volumes of the work show a total of 105 woodblock prints. Published by Unsodo. Each opening is a double page wood-block print measuring 20x26 cm. Each print bears an artist’s seal. The work is elusive in the standard western references. The only (very brief) mentions located are in a list in Brown: p.200. and Mitchell: p.216 who cites Brown. All text in Japanese. Each volume has a decorative woodblock print cover of a lotus pod and an applied title slip. Contained in the original cloth case that has some wear and soiling. The volumes themselves in fine condition with just the occasional bit of foxing. Very rare

Christie's auction house, November 24, 1997 sale of Japanese Prints, Paintings and Screens.  
KONO BAIREI (1844-1895), artist, Yamada Shinzaburo, publisherBairei gakan "Picture albums by Bairei"; colophon dated Taisho 2 (1913), signed Yamada Shinzaburoorihon, 7 vols. complete (22 x 13.5cm.), block printed, covers printed with scrolling-patterned wheels, paper title slips titled as above, fine impressions and color, slightly toned along edges, otherwise good condition
Contents: each with one double-page table of contents and fifteen double-page illustrations of various subjects: vols. 1-4, the first double page with calligraphy dated Meiji 37 (1904); vol. 7: inside back cover with colophon, signed and dated as above (7)


1 Beisen, eight year's younger than Bairei, was a student of Bairei's.
2 "Kako Tsuji: Free from Schools with Zen's help," C. B. Liddell, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007, The Japan Times Online
3 A Dictionary of Japanese Artists: Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics, Prints, Lacquer, Laurance P. Roberts, Weatherhill, 1976, p. 8.

4 "Bairei Kono and his work," Masahiro Misumi, 1937 online at http://www.tobunken.go.jp/~bijutsu/english/publications/bijutukenkyu/abstract/62.html
5 Japanese Illustration: A History of the Arts of Wood-cutting and Colour, Edward Fairbrother Strange, London, G. Bell and sons, 1897, p. 105.