Saturday, October 9, 2010

Takarai Kikaku

Here we have another Gekko painting which exhibits his skill using delicate color washes over strong bones. I have cropped the painting to emphasise the figure.
I suspect this is a painting of Takarai Kikaku the famous poet. If this is correct it also suggests a date for this painting, 1907, as this was the 300th anniversary of his death, an event celebrated in Japanese artistic circles. The 2 frogs next to Gekko's signature are perhaps an allusion to Kikaku's illustrious teacher Basho and his famous frog haiku.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


At one stage in his career Gekko went through a phase of using color washes over relatively strong 'bones'. This way of painting is similar to the shades of black washes seen in traditional sumi-e, a technique in which Gekko was very adept.
Today's painting shows the color wash technique nicely, the subject it the Kesobumi-uri, the seller of love letters. The love letters were actually a sort of fortune telling device, which the young men and women bought to see how they would fare in love over the coming year. I am uncertain as to why the seller's mouth is covered, perhaps to disguise him, perhaps because these letters were only sold on the first 3 days of the new year, a chilly time of year. He holds one letter in his hand, the others will be contained in the container on his chest, over his shoulder he carries the traditional plum blossom branch

Sunday, September 20, 2009








Today's offering is a very sensitive ink painting, comprising only shades of black and the clever use of untouched space to convey the sense of height and distance. It may well depict the buddhist monk Saigyō Hōshi, a famous poet of the late Heian period whose work often explored the feeling of loneliness (sabi). There is certainly some sense of that in this picture. The seal is an unusual one and reads Meikyousai. This piece probably painted between 1910 and 1920.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Chinese God


This next painting is a much smaller piece, not too much bigger than an A4 sized piece of paper. The detailed brush work around the face gives great character to the image. Chinese gods and their Japanese counterparts often appear in Gekko's ouevre. They always have a sense of serenity about them and often a cheeky grin, like this one.
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Dont forget you can click on any of the images in my posts for a more detailed view

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dotou Hinode




This superb piece is titled Dotou Hinode, "Surging waves at Sunrise".

An inspired image, one which evokes a sense of power reminiscent of the famous Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai. The comparison with Hokusai is not unjustified, it was said in the Meiji period that Gekko's Manga (sketch books for study) were the successors to Hokusai's Manga from a generation earlier.

The seal on this piece reads Konchû Tenru.

Thursday, February 5, 2009



I have posted this painting to give an example of Gekko's versatility as an artist. This is a sumi-e painting, over 2 metres tall, of Zhuangzi also known as Chuang Tzu, an early and important Chinese philosopher. It was Zhuangzi who first proposed the story that he had been dreaming he was a butterfly and then woke to discover he was Zhuangzi, but on further thought realised he may have been a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi.

This painting is one of a series covering Chinese deities/philosophers. It is quite possible that the series was commissioned by a temple or monastery given the size of each piece.



The seal on this painting is as yet unread

Tuesday, October 28, 2008




So it is time for another Gekko painting. This one is a very simple image, a hoe. With the butterfly above and the ripe ears of grain around the handle it is a delightful symbol of the richness of summer. The color palette is quite limited and the influences of the sumi-e tradition of ink painting and the Maruyama-Shijo school are quite evident. The seal shown below reads Miei, a slightly puzzling one as this term can be interpreted as "portrait of a noble being" and was the term used when describing traditional portraits of the deceased.