by Yumi Ryujin
Kawagoe Goodwill Ambassador for Tourism

§ No. 5

HASHIMOTO Gaho, an artist retained by the Kawagoe Domain at the end of the Edo Period, who created a new style of Japanese painting with OKAKURA Tenshin in the Meiji Period

Welcome to Kawagoe! Kawagoe is an old town whose history can be traced back to the Old Stone Age. I would like to tell you a story about the Kawagoe of olden times. This story is about HASHIMOTO Gaho, an artist retained by the Kawagoe Domain at the end of the Edo Period, who created a new style of Japanese painting with OKAKURA Tenshin in the Meiji Period. This is number five in the series of stories about Kawagoe.
The Birth of HASHIMOTO Gaho
Gaho was born in Edo in 1835 in the residence of the Kano family, who were artists specially patronized by the Tokugawa Shogunate. Gaho’s father was HASHIMOTO Osakuni, a painter retained by Lord Matsudaira, the daimyo of the Hamada Domain (now a city in Shimane Prefecture). Gaho started to learn the basics of painting from his father at the age of seven and became a disciple of KANO Tadanobu when he was 13 years old. At this time he called himself SHOEN Gaho. KANO Hogai, who later became famous for his painting “Avalokitesvara as a Merciful Mother,” dated 1888, entered the Kano school on the same day. In 1860, Gaho married a woman called Tomeko and made a home of his own in the residence of the Kano family. However, in the closing days of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the people were disturbed. Since nobody paid attention to art, Gaho suffered extreme poverty. Probably due to anxiety and stress, Tomeko became mentally unbalanced. However, day and night Gaho discussed painting with Hogai and they encouraged each other to devote themselves to their studies.
Gaho Moves to Kawagoe
In 1866, Gaho’s master, Lord Matsudaira, was transferred to Kawagoe. Accordingly, Gaho became a member of the Kawagoe Domain and lived in Kawagoe for about two years. The Meiji Period began in 1868. In 1871, when the feudal domains were dissolved, he lost his job in the Kawagoe Domain and began working for the navy drawing maps as a draftman.
The Renaissance of Japanese-style Painting
At the beginning of the Meiji Period, the government and the people were unquestioning supporters of Western culture. However, traditional Japanese art was well received in International Exposition held in Vienna and Paris. This became the trigger for the Japanese people to recognize the merits of Japanese-style painting once again. Also, because Earnest Fenollosa gave some lectures to encourage Japanese-style painting, the new trend took firm hold in Japan.
Gaho sent three paintings to the first Competitive Show for the Promotion of National Painting held in 1882 and was awarded the silver prize for one of them. With this as a turning point, his name became well-known. At that time he was 48 years old.
Fenollosa praised Gaho, Hogai and others very highly for their paintings which were displayed in this contest. Finally, the modernization of Japanese-style painting had begun. At the same time, Gaho participated in a society which studied paintings, presided over by Fenollosa and OKAKURA, where he studied hard and trained himself together with Hogai, aiming for the modernization of traditional painting.
'Lin Hejing and Tao Yuanming' painted by HASHIMOTO Gaho around 1902
'Lin Hejing and Tao Yuanming' painted by HASHIMOTO Gaho around 1902
"Lin Hejing and Tao Yuanming" painted by HASHIMOTO Gaho around 1902
Collection of Kawagoe City Art Museum
Gaho Apppointed Professor at the Tokyo Fine Arts School
In 1887 when Gaho was 53 years old, the Tokyo Fine Arts School was established (now the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music). OKAKURA became the head and Gaho was appointed chief professor of Japanese-style painting. Under the leadership of Gaho and OKAKURA, who was strongly influenced by Fenollosa since he was Fenollosa’s interpreter, YOKOYAMA Taikan, SHIMOMURA Kanzan, and HISHIDA Shunso later played important and active roles in the history of modern Japanese art.
Gaho's motto was "Inspiration is More Important Than Technique," and he considered "inspiration" to be the ideal of art. His educational principle was to "cultivate gently, the most deep-rooted of talents possessed by each student." He valued the individuality of each person.
by courtesy of the Yamazaki Museum
The "Gaho Association"
In 1897, Gaho lovers organized the “Gaho Association” and decided to hold a meeting once a month with Gaho’s permission. The first meeting was held at a Japanese restaurant in Ueno, Tokyo. We have very recently discovered a document which says that five persons from Kawagoe, including the then mayor, were the organizers and another 15 people bought Gaho’s pictures. This association gradually became known to Tokyoites. When the Japan Art Institute was established, Gaho became the head. Afterward, he energetically produced many works.
Now you can enjoy Gaho’s paintings at the Yamazaki Museum (Map C-3) in Naka-cho. Why don’t you pass through the main gate of the museum? Feeling as if you had been transported to the Edo Period, you will be touched by some of the modern Japanese art. (Open: 9:30-17:00, closed on Thursdays)
The Yamazaki Museum in Naka-cho
The Yamazaki Museum in Naka-cho
Please visit Kawagoe again! We welcome you!
©Yumi Ryujin   All rights reserved.

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