Okoku Konoshima
Okoku Konoshima detail

Konoshima Okoku (1877-1938)

Spring Night
(haru no yo)

hanging scroll; ink and color on silk, signed Okoku with artist's seal Okoku; accompanied by tomobako dated titled Haru (no) yo, and signed Okoku dai with artist's seal Okoku

painting 54 3/8 by 10 1/2 in., 138 by 26.7 cm
overall: 84 5/8 by 15 1/8 in; 215 by 38.5 cm

Konoshima Okoku was from a family that dealt in tea ceremony utensils in Kyoto. In 1893 he entered the studio of the well-established kacho-ga artist, Imao Keinen (1845-1923), while at the same time he began studying classical Chinese and medicinal herbs with the Confucian scholar Yamamoto Keigu (1827-1903). Although his interest in Chinese language led to an appreciation of Chinese verse and calligraphy, Okoku rarely painted Chinese subjects. Rather, his intense recordings of medicinal herbs and plants likely contributed to his skill in portraying the natural world. His first acceptance to a national exhibition was in 1899, and he became known for his subtle depictions of animal subjects. He was so closely identified with the kacho-ga genre he was assumed to take Keinen's place when the elder master stepped down from the Bunten judging committee in 1913. In spite of his prominence among Nihonga painters and his recognition as an exhibition judge, by the late 1920s his adherence to traditional motifs was considered outdated and he was subjected to steady criticism for failing to change with the times. In 1929 the art critic Kanzaki Ken'ichi (1889-1954) published a review of his career that was particularly harsh. Although Okoku withdrew from the spotlight of government exhibitions by 1933 and focused on poetry and calligraphy, in 1934 another art critic, Yoshikawa Takeshi (1895-1951) criticized the elderly artist's retreat as something that "today's art world will not forgive." Apparently Okoku was unable to find solace and in 1938 committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train.

Ellen P. Conant, Nihonga: Transcending the Past, St. Louis Art Museum, 1995, p.324 Michiyo Morioka & Paul Berry, Modern Masters of Kyoto, Seattle Art Museum, 1999, pp. 206-211


Araki Kanpo signature
Araki Kanpo signature
box lid
Araki Kanpo signature
box lid

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Contact Katherine Martin at
(212) 585-0474 or email
to schedule a visit.

site last updated
October 18, 2019

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475