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Reference » Ukiyo-e »  Artists Biographies

Gyokusho Kawabata 1842-1913

Born in Kyoto as Ryunosuke, son of a lacquer artisan, Kawabata Sahei who specialised in maki-e. His father taught him Chinese poetry and the art of maki-e. In 1852 Gyokusho began his studies of Maruyama painting style from Nakajima Raisho, and Chinese and Japanese cultural studies under Oda Kaisen. In 1866 Gyokusho left Kyoto for Edo, continuing his studies of Western painting, by supporting himself doing odd jobs. His early woodblock prints earned Gyokusho his first award at the Naikoku kangyo Exhibiton as well as a personal invitation from Okakura Tenshin to join his school, the Tokyo Arts Academy (today's Tokyo University of the Fine Arts). Gyokusho took up a position of a professor in 1888. Being regarded as a master of the traditional style, he was selected to paint the cedar doors of the Imperial Palace the very same year.

Gyokusho's works combine the Maruyama style with Western realism. Since 1897 he works on preservation of historical temples and shrines and a member of a committee selecting objects to become national treasures. In 1909 he set up his own art school.

Gyokusho was also known by artistic names: Kyotei or Sho-ou. His son Shigeaki Kawabata, also an artist continued his father's artistic tradition and took over the school as the second generation. Gyokusho's grand-son, Minoru immigrated to New York, where he worked as a painter, researcher, and teacher at the New York School for Social Research.