Rakusan, Tsuchiya

Tsuchiya Rakusan (土屋楽山, 1896 – 1976) was a Japanese artist known for his intricate and detailed paintings of birds and flowers (kacho-e). Born in Kyoto, Rakusan grew up in a family of artists and was exposed to the traditional Japanese art forms of painting and calligraphy at an early age. He attended the Kyoto City School of Fine Arts, where he studied under the prominent painter Takeuchi Seiho.

Rakusan’s style was heavily influenced by the traditional Japanese painting technique of nihonga, which emphasizes the use of natural pigments and a meticulous attention to detail. His paintings often featured birds and flowers set against a background of gold leaf, and his use of color and composition created a sense of depth and texture in his works.

Rakusan’s career as an artist was interrupted by World War II, during which he served in the Japanese military. After the war, he returned to painting and exhibited his works in Japan and abroad. His paintings were highly sought after by collectors, and his works were exhibited in prominent galleries, including the Tokyo National Museum and the Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art.

During 1920s through 1950s, Rakusan built a successful career as a print artist. He produced his most successful series, “Rakusan Kacho Gafu” (Rakusan Flower and Bird Series), between 1929 and 1933. Based on paintings he had completed between 1925 and 1929, the 100 large-scale woodblock prints proved so popular that many designs remained in print until his studio closed in 1955.

In addition to his paintings, Rakusan also worked as an illustrator and designer, creating book covers and illustrations for publications. He was also a teacher, and he mentored many young artists in the traditional techniques of nihonga painting.

Rakusan’s contributions to the art world were widely recognized during his lifetime. He was awarded numerous prizes and honors, including the Order of Culture, one of Japan’s highest civilian honors. Today, his works are held in collections around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo.

Sources:

  • “Tsuchiya Rakusan” by Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, 1981
  • “Tsuchiya Rakusan” by Tsuchiya Rakusan, 1970
  • “Japanese Painting: A Concise History” by Gregory Irvine, Thames & Hudson, 2008.