Hokusai artwork of chickens and bamboo found in Denmark
The Asahi Shimbun by WAKATO ONISHI/ Senior Staff Writer December 30, 2016
A nearly unknown painting of chickens and bamboo by renowned ukiyo-e artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849) has been found and brought back to Japan from Europe.
A Tokyo-based art dealer bought “Keichikuzu” (literally meaning “chicken and bamboo painting”) at an auction in Denmark in late November.
The painting is believed to have been owned by British architect Josiah Conder (1852-1920), who came to Japan in the Meiji Era (1868-1912) and designed Rokumeikan, a Western-style building constructed by the government in Tokyo in 1883 to entertain foreign guests.
The painting depicts two chickens perched on a stone lantern with bamboo stalks in the background. It was drawn on a hanging scroll made of silk cloth measuring 110 centimeters in length and 51 cm in width.
Hokusai’s signature and his seal impression are shown on the left lower part of the scroll.
“Judging from the signature, seal impression and the painting style, it is Hokusai’s work,” said Masato Naito, professor of Edo Period (1603-1867) paintings at Keio University. “There is no room for doubt.”
Naito said this is the first Hokusai painting he has seen that shows chickens and bamboo. He believes Hokusai was in his 40s when he painted the scroll.
“Changes in the colors of the bamboo leaves are not seen in ukiyo-e, so it can be said that the painting reflects the influence of the Nanpin School originating from China,” Naito said.
The school was known for producing painters skilled at drawing flowers and birds.
“The painting style is fresh. It was apparently drawn in the period when Hokusai was the most active, like birds flying upward. The painting is drawn very well. It is a valuable discovery,” he said.
While designing buildings in Japan, Conder also nurtured such Japanese architects as Kingo Tatsuno (1854-1919).