Otake Kokkan, (1880-1945)
hanging scroll, ink and color on silk; signed Kokkan with artist's seal Kokkan, accompanied by tomobako with title Noryo and signed Kokkan with artist's seal Kokkan, ca. 1910
painting 48 3/4 by 19 7/8 in., 123.8 by 50.5 cm
overall 82 1/8 by 23 7/8 in., 208.5 by 60.6 cm
Born in Niigata, Otake Kokkan (Kokukan) was the younger brother of the Nihonga painters and kuchi-e designers Otake Chikuha (1878-1936) and Otake Etsudo (1876-1930). Kokkan studied yamato-e, Japanese-style painting, under Kobori Tomone (1864-1931), focusing on courtly and military subjects such as historical events and battles. His career spanned the late Meiji period to the early Showa period (early 1900s to 1920s), he initially enjoyed considerable success at government sponsored exhibitions, frequently winning prizes, his first in 1907. Like his brothers, Kokkan also occasionally produced kuchi-e woodblock print designs. In 1913, after all of the paintings submitted by Kokkan and his brothers were rejected by the 7th Annual Bunten exhibition, they organized a counter-exhibition, Rakusenten ('Exhibit of Rejected Works'), in protest to the internal politics of the Bunten. They continued to rebel against the powerful government exhibitions by establishing their own organization, the Hakkakai, and exhibiting with other 'rebel' artists.
The subject of this painting, two young beauties enjoying the evening cool by the river is likely set on the Kamo River in Kyoto. The romantic subject is actually a departure for the artist who was more well-known for his depictions of historical and warrior subjects. Although the women are dressed in traditional Japanese kimono, their faces, hands and feet are modeled with Western-style shading, a modern appropriation typical of Nihonga painting.
Laurance P. Roberts, A Dictionary of Japanese Artists, Weatherhill, 1976, p. 123
Kazuto Yui, Nijuseiki bukko Nihon gaka jiten, Tokyo, 1998, p. 94
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