Who was Seiki Kuroda (黒田清輝)? The Life of the Japanese Painter Who Adopted the Western Style

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Who was Seiki Kuroda (黒田清輝)? Information about the life and work of Seiki Kuroda (黒田清輝), a Japanese painter, teacher and politician who adopted the Western style.

Seiki Kuroda (黒田清輝)

Seiki Kuroda (黒田清輝)

Seiki Kuroda (黒田 清輝? August 9, 1866 – July 15, 1924) was the pseudonym of a Japanese painter and teacher known for bringing Western art theories to the wider Japanese public. He was one of the leaders of the Yōga (or Western-style) movement in Japanese painting in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His real name is Kiyoteru Kuroda.

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Youth Period

Kuroda was born in Takamibaba, Satsuma Domain (present-day Kagoshima Prefecture), the son of Kuroda Kiyokane, a Shimazu clan samurai, and his wife Yaeko. At birth, the boy was named Shintarō and was changed to Kiyoteru in 1877 when he was 11 years old.

Even before his birth, Kuroda was officially named heir by his uncle, Kuroda Kiyotsuna, was adopted in 1871 after he left for Tokyo to live on his uncle’s estate with both his biological mother and adoptive mother. Kiyotsuna was also a servant of Shimazu, whose services to Emperor Meiji during the Bakumatsu period and the Toba-Fushimi War led to his appointment to high posts in the new imperial government, and in 1887 he became a viscount. Because of his position, the aged Kuroda was exposed to many of the modernizing trends and ideas that came to Japan during the early Meiji period, and like his heir, younger Kiyoteru learned from them and took heartfelt lessons. In his early teens, Kuroda began learning English in preparation for his university education. Within two years, however, he had chosen to move to the French.

At the age of 17, she enrolled in pre-university French courses in preparation for her planned law studies at university. As a result, when Kuroda’s brother-in-law, Hashiguchi Naouemon, was appointed French Ambassador in 1884, it was decided that Kuroda would accompany him and his wife to Paris to begin their royal legal training. He arrived in Paris on March 18, 1884 , where he would remain for the next ten years.

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Studies in Paris

In early 1886, Kuroda had decided to drop out of law school to pursue a career as a painter, had taken painting lessons in his youth, and was given a set of watercolors by his adoptive mother as a gift on his way to Paris, but he never did. He saw painting as more than a hobby. However, in February 1886, Kuroda was attending a party for Japanese citizens at the Japanese embassy in Paris; Here he met painter Yamamoto Hosui Masazo Fuji and ukiyo-e expert art dealer Tadamasa Hayashi. The three urged the young student to paint, saying that he could better help his country by learning to paint like a Westerner rather than learning the law. After trying and unsuccessfully to find a compromise between the two to please his father, Kuroda formally agreed to quit his studies for painting in August 1887. In May 1886, Kuroda entered the workshop of Raphael Collin, a renowned academic art painter who had exhibited his work at various Salons in Paris. Kuroda was not the only Japanese painter working with Collin at the time; Fuji Masazo was also one of his students.

Seiki Kuroda and Impressionism

In 1886, Kuroda met another young Japanese painter, Kume Keiichiro, who had recently arrived from France, who had joined Collin’s workshop. The two became friends and soon became roommates. During these years he began to mature as a painter, following the traditional path of study in academic art while simultaneously discovering plein air painting. In 1890, Kuroda moved from Paris to the town of Grez-sur-Loing, an artists’ colony formed by painters from the United States and Northern Europe. There she was inspired by the landscape and a young woman, Maria Billault, who became one of its top models.

In 1893 Kuroda returned to Paris and began work on his most important work to date, The Morning Toilet. Sadly destroyed in the Second World War, this Great Work was highly praised by the Académie des Beaux-Arts; Kuroda aimed to bring her home to Japan to break the prejudice against the Japanese in her depiction of the nude figure. Painting in his hand, he made his way home, crossing the United States in July 1893. He returned to Japan.

Shortly after returning home, Kuroda went to Kyoto to absorb the local culture that he had longed for after spending a third of his life abroad. He translated what he saw into some of his best paintings, such as Maiko Girl (ND, Tokyo National Museum) and “The Conversation” in Ancient Romance (1898, destroyed). At the same time, Kuroda was taking on an increasing role as a reformer; As one of the few Japanese artists trained in Paris, he was uniquely qualified to teach his fellow countrymen what was going on in the Western art world. moment. On the other hand, Kuroda prepared himself to teach painting by transferring the lessons he learned to a new generation of painters. He took over the painting school founded by Yamamoto Hosui, changed its name to Seikokan and Tenshin Dojo, the two men became his mentors together. School,

Until Kuroda’s return from Japan, the prevailing style was based on the Barbizon School, advocated by Italian artist Antonio Fontanesi in Gakko Kobu Bijutsu from 1876. Kuroda’s style of bright hues emphasizing changes in light and atmosphere was considered revolutionary.

Discussions About His Art

In April 1895, Kuroda helped organize the Fourth Domestic Exhibition to promote the industry, held in Kyoto, and also introduced the Morning Toilet for display at the same venue. While the painting was awarded an award, the earlier display of a nude woman enraged many visitors so much that it sparked a media scandal where critics denounced the display of perceived social norms. Neither criticized the technical aspects of the painting, choosing instead to criticize Kuroda for his subject matter. Kume, a friend of Kuroda’s Paris days, wrote an impassioned defense of the nude figure in newspaper publishing art, but that didn’t help much. Kuroda, on the other hand, remained silent publicly on the matter; privately, however, the opinion was expressed that morally, at least, it had won the day. In October of the same year,

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Kume included some of his works in the exhibit, as did several students at Tenshin Dojo. Visitors were struck by the stark differences between Kuroda’s outdoors-derived style and the more formal work of other artists, leading critics to focus on the difference between old and new. Some even went so far as to suggest a difference between the two “schools” fractions of painting. Angered at the bureaucratic methods found in the Meiji Bijutsukai hierarchy, Kuroda spearheaded the formation of a new artists’ society the following year, joined by Kume and several of his students. The new group was named Hakubakai, after a raw brand of sake called Shirouma, favored by men. Hakubakai had no set rules, instead, it was a free meeting of thought and artists alike, whose sole purpose was to find a way for members to present their work. The group held exhibitions every year until it disbanded in 1911, a total of thirteen shows. Many artists, including Fujishima and Shigeru Aoki Takeji, were featured at these exhibitions for the first time. The new group was named Hakubakai, after a raw brand of sake called Shirouma, favored by men. Hakubakai had no set rules, but rather a free meeting of thinkers and artists alike, whose sole purpose was to find a way for members to present their work. The group held exhibitions every year until it disbanded in 1911, a total of thirteen shows. Many artists, including Fujishima and Shigeru Aoki Takeji, were featured at these exhibitions for the first time.

Hakubakai had no set rules, but rather a free meeting of thinkers and artists alike, whose sole purpose was to find a way for members to present their work. The group held exhibitions every year until it disbanded in 1911, a total of thirteen shows. Many artists, including Fujishima and Shigeru Aoki Takeji, were featured at these exhibitions for the first time. like artists and thinkers whose sole purpose is to find a way to present their work to their members. The group held exhibitions every year until it disbanded in 1911, a total of thirteen shows. Many artists, including Fujishima and Shigeru Aoki Takeji, were featured at these exhibitions for the first time. like artists and thinkers whose sole purpose is to find a way to present their work to their members. The group held exhibitions every year until it disbanded in 1911, a total of thirteen shows.

Academic career

In 1896, the Department of Western Painting was established at Tokyo Bijutsu Gakko (predecessor of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music), and Kuroda was invited to become its director. This allowed him to design a broader curriculum for arts students in general and better equipped to reach a wider audience. An academic role contrasted with the painter’s interest in individuality with his emphasis on structure and relevance, but Kuroda nevertheless approached his new role with enthusiasm. Kuroda also insisted that anatomy lessons and live nude model drawing be included in the curriculum. Eventually, Kuroda set the goal of teaching history painting, to feel that it is the most important genre for students to learn. According to him, depicting myths, history or themes such as love or courage, The paintings in which the figures were depicted in poses and the compositions reflecting these themes had the greatest social value. Coinciding with this was the creation of one of his most ambitious works, the Ancient Romanticism controversy. 

Painting was a big undertaking, but it seems that Kuroda was one of the first to work on charcoal drawings and oil paint sketches. He would continue to use this technique in many of his later works and teach his students as well. Ancient Romance Talk, like many of Kuroda’s work, seems to have been conceived as a wall panel. however, it appears that Kuroda was one of the first to work on charcoal drawings and oil paint sketches. He would continue to use this technique in many of his later works and teach his students as well. Ancient Romance Talk, like many of Kuroda’s work, seems to have been conceived as a wall panel. however, it appears that Kuroda was one of the first to work on charcoal drawings and oil paint sketches. He would continue to use this technique in many of his later works and teach his students as well. Ancient Romance Talk, like many of Kuroda’s work, seems to have been conceived as a wall panel.

Last Years

Kuroda has been accepted not only by the Japanese but also by the art world in general. The Trinity of Wisdom, Impression, Emotion (completed 1900) was exhibited at the International Exhibition in Paris in 1900, along with his 1897 lakeside work; received a silver medal. In 1907, Hakubakai members, including Kuroda, attended the first Bunten exhibition sponsored by the Ministry of Education; His continued involvement led to the group’s disbandment in 1911. 

Also, Kuroda was appointed court painter at the Imperial Court in 1910 and became a yoga artist with such honor. From then until the end of his life his artistic activities declined, becoming more of a politician and administrator, creating small works for display only. Appointed to the House of Peers in 1920; In 1922 he was appointed head of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts. He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor in 1923, followed by numerous other awards from the French government in previous years. Kuroda died at his home in Azabukogaicho on July 15, 1924; Immediately after his death, the Japanese government awards him an engagement.

Artistic perspective

For most of his career, Kuroda painted in a style that was primarily Impressionist but also owed much to his academic training. Generally speaking, outdoor works are less finished, less painterly than more formal compositions. In terms of style, it can be said that I owe a lot to painters like Edouard Manet, the Barbizon School and its master Collin.

Few artists have had an impact on Japanese art comparable to that of Kuroda. As a painter, he was one of the first to introduce Western-style painting to a wide Japanese audience. As a teacher, he taught many young artists lessons he learned in Paris, and among his students were painters such as Eisaku Wada, who would become one of the leading Japanese painters of his generation. 

Many students followed Kuroda when choosing to study in Paris, leading to a greater awareness of broader trends in Western art by many Japanese artists in the 20th century, some like Asai Chu, even going as far as Grez. Perhaps Kuroda’s greatest contribution to Japanese culture, however, was the acceptance of Western-style painting encouraged by the Japanese public. Despite their initial reluctance, was able to persuade them to accept the validity of the nude figure as an art object. This, along with honors bestowed upon him in later life, marks a broader understanding by the Japanese people and governments of the importance of yoga in their culture.

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