Outside Japan Bakusen Tsuchida is a lesser known but very interesting artist of the Meiji, Taisho and the Showa period. He was extremely talented and could have become one of the greatest Japanese artists of the twentieth century if he had not died at the age of only 49.

First Publication: May 2002
Latest Update: June 2013

Priest or Artist?

Tsuchida Bakusen was born into a wealthy and influential family in the Niigata Prefecture. As an adolescent he wanted to become a monk. But instead he decided to study art under the painter and printmaker Seiko Takeuchi and became his student in 1904. In 1909 he entered the Kyoto Municipal School of Art from which he graduated in 1911.

Torn between East and West

Bakusen Tsuchida saw European art during a visit in 1912. From 1921 to 1923 the artist was again in Europe studying Western art. He was impressed by the French Impressionists - especially by the Post-Impressionists like Paul Gauguin or van Gogh - and by the Italian Renaissance painters.

Back in Japan the artist began to find his own style by and by. It was based on traditional Japanese painting and printmaking rather than Western style art. His subjects remained in the Japanese tradition - women portraits, flower still lives and genre scenes. One of his favorite motifs were Maiko, young Japanese geisha apprentices.

Death at Age 49

In 1934 he was appointed as a member of the Imperial Art Academy. Tsuchida Bakusen died on June 19, 1936, In 1999 the National Museum of Modern Art had a retrospective in his honor.

The town of Yahata in the Niigata Prefecture established a museum in honor of the artist. It exhibits 80 artworks.

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Dieter WanczuraAuthor: Dieter Wanczura

Literature sources used for this Bakusen Tsuchida biography

  • Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada, "Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: 1900-1975", published by University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, ISBN 0-8248-1732-X
  • Helen Merritt, "Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints - The early years", published by University of Hawaii Press, Honolulu, 1990, ISBN 0-8248-1200-X

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