The Work: A Kind of Cat
The Artist: Takeuchi Seihō
Hambyō (A Kind of Cat)*, 1924
Kakemono, color on silk, 32 3/4 x 40 1/4 in.
Yamatane Museum of Art
(An Important Cultural Property)
*also known as Tabby Cat
"In order to do this work, Seihō sought for and found a cat to his liking and observed it for many days.
The vivid depiction is the result of these intimate observations."
Seihō was born in Kyoto and was trained by Tsuchida Eirin and Kōno Bairei. He was a key-figure of the Kyoto painting circle of his time. He was considered the last meijin (master artist) by his contemporaries.
The start of his career coincided with the development of Nihonga style of painting. Like many Kyoto artists of his time, he was also involved in textile design in the early years of his professional life. A visit to Europe in 1901 proved decisive for the next stage in the development of his style and themes. Seihō’s work of this period can best be characterised as a successful fusion of the best of Japanese painting techniques and styles, and Western art. In the second half of his career his main sources of inspiration were China and haiku poetry.
His key-concept was shasei (sketching from life) in which he was committed to catching the essence of his object. His depiction of animals and landscapes is superb. From the 1890s when his reputation was firmly established, Seihō became active as an instructor at the Kyoto Municipal Special School of painting, where he briefly associated with Yokoyama Taikan, and at his private studio. His best-known pupils are Nishiyama Suishō, Uemura Shōen, Nishimura Goun, and Tsuchida Bakusen, whom he supported in their individual development, even when they decided to break away from the Bunten, where Seihō was a judge. He presided over the Kyoto art world for more than thirty years.
Takeuchi Seihô 竹内栖鳳
Born: Takeuchi Tsunekichi
December 20, 1864, Kyoto, Japan
Died: August 23, 1942 (aged 77)
The Artist's Passing
Seihō's last years were spent in Yugawara, a hot-springs town. (Seihō was to use a seal on his work that read "Seihō at a hot spring inn" for some work during this period.) Such was Seihō's fame that while dying of pneumonia at the age of 78, the mayor dispatched a fire truck and ambulance in search of an oxygen tank to ease his suffering. Such was his fame that for years after his death on August 23, 1942 citizens commemorated his passing with prayers and ceremonies.
Teaching and Students
A major part of Takeuchi Seihō's legacy were the many students who went on to achieve fame, including ten who went on to be awarded the Order of Cultural Merit. He taught at the Kyoto Municipal School of Arts for over 30 years, and at his own studio, formed in 1903, which he named Chikujōkai (Bamboo Stick Fellowship), he trained well over 100 students.
Starting with his first student, his cousin Hashimoto Shinnosuke (1873-?), artists such as Hashimoto Kansetsu (1883-1945)30, Nishiyama Suishō (1879-1958), Tsuchida Bakusen (1887-1936), Nishimura Goun (1877-1938), Uemura Shōen (1875-1949), Tokuoka Shinsen (1896-1972), Tsuji Kakō (1871-1931), Miki Suizan (1887-1957) and Ito Takashi (1894-1982) came under his tutelage.
He supported his students when they formed the Kokuga Sosaku Kyokai (National Creative Painting Society) which, "for a time raised the standard against Bunten."
"Seihō honed the skills and guided the careers of countless artists and artisans of the succeeding generation - for an unmatched impact on the modern Kyoto art world."
Posing for the First Time
183.2 × 87.5 cm
< Seihō's stamp
on the Sleeping Heron
from the series Seihō's Masterpieces (set one)
(Seihō's ippin shū)
by Takeuchi Seihō, 1937
15 3/8 x 5 3/8 in. (39.1 x 13.7 cm )