Who was Seiki Kuroda? Google Doodle pays tribute to 'father of Western-style painting' on his 156th birthday
TOKYO, JAPAN: For those of you who logged on to Google and noticed the Doodle for the day, here's the painter featured in it - Seiki Kuroda. Google Doodle commemorates the painter's 156th birthday which falls on August 9. Born in Kagoshima in 1866, Kuroda, who was adopted by his uncle and later moved to Tokyo, is known as the father of Western-style paintings in Japan. He spent a decade in France accumulating how to paint in the Western academic style, during his period of self-discovery.
Kuroda made a lasting impression on the art world in Japan and beyond, inspiring the next generation of Western-style, impressionist, and pleinairist artists to continue his legacy. He was also invited to teach the Western Painting Department at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts and further started his Western painting school called 'Tenshin Dojo'. He was also a teacher and art administrator for the Tokyo Art School, as well as the founder of the White Horse Society, a group of Japanese practitioners of yoga and painting. He also started a Western painting school called Tenshin Dojo and established 'pleinairism' which is the practice of painting outdoors.
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Kuroda's works and achievements
His works and achievements can be found in countless museums and galleries such as the Artizon Museum in Tokyo and the Kuroda Memorial Hall within the Tokyo National Museum. After his return to Japan, two of his works, Maiko (1893) and Lakeside (1897) were selected as commemorative postage stamps by the Japanese government. In 1986, he founded the Habuka-kai also known as the W. In his waning years, Kuroda was chosen as a teishitsu gigei-in, or Imperial Household Artist, to create works for the Tokyo Imperial Palace. He was a Shimazu retainer and also served as the President of the Imperial Art Academy and was titled a Viscount in 1917. Then, in 1920, Kuroda was elected to join Japan’s House of Peers, or Kizoku-in, the new aristocratic social class during the Meiji Era.
Kuroda's early life
During Seiki Kuroda's early life, the boy was named Shintarō, in 1877, this was changed to Seiki, when he was 11. In his early teens, Kuroda began to learn the English language in preparation for his university for legal studies, before deciding to pursue painting. He moved to the artists' colony about 70 km, south of Paris, which had been formed by painters from the United States and northern Europe. It was at Grez-sur-Loing that Kuroda first began to experiment with plein-air techniques, discovering inspiration in the rural landscape, as well as a young woman, Maria Billault, who became one of his favorite models. Kuroda had never considered painting as anything more than a hobby, however, in February 1886, Kuroda was attending a party at the Japanese legation for Japanese nationals in Paris, where he met the painters Yamamoto Hōsui and Fuji Masazō, as well as art dealer Tadamasa Hayashi, a specialist in ukiyo-e. All three urged the young student to turn to painting, saying that he could better help his country by learning to paint like a Westerner rather than learning law.
Seiki Kuroda's controversial art work
When Kuroda returned to Japan, he submitted several of his paintings to the Meiji Fine Arts Society's annual exhibition, which exhibited nine of his works in 1894. Kuroda helped to organize the Fourth National Industrial Exhibition, held in Kyoto and he also submitted Morning Toilette, an exhibition of a picture of a nude woman, one of his most famous works. Although he was awarded a prize for the painting, he was heavily criticized for "corrupting public morals".
His innovative painting style, heavily influenced by the latest European plein air and Impressionist techniques, shocked Japanese audiences. However, many younger artists found Kuroda's innovative style inspiring and flocked to become his students. His triptych Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment was exhibited alongside his 1897 work Lakeside, at the Exposition Universelle held in 1900 in Paris, which received a silver medal. Lakeside, however, is arguably Kuroda's most famous and recognizable work in Japan. It depicts Kuroda's wife Teruko, seated by a lake in the famous resort town of Hakone.
Kuroda died at home in Azabu Kōgai-chō on July 15, 1924, immediately upon his death the Japanese government gave him the title 'Order of the Rising Sun.'