Satake Shozan

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  • Born: 1748
  • Died: 1785
  • Other Names: 佐竹義敦 (Satake Yoshiatsu)
  • Japanese: 佐竹曙山 (Satake Shozan)

Satake Yoshiatsu, also known by his art-name Shozan, was daimyô of Akita han, and a significant ranga painter and theorist. He was the head of the important but short-lived Akita ranga school of painting.

The Akita ranga school got its start when Shozan invited rangaku (Dutch studies) scholar Hiraga Gennai to Akita to help advise him on the management of the domain's copper mines. Akita was the primary provider of copper to the archipelago in this period, much of which was also shipped abroad. Though Gennai is known primarily as a physician, botanist and inventor, he was a ranga painter as well, and mentored Shozan in Western artistic techniques.

Shozan then sent one of his chief retainers, Odano Naotake, to Edo, to live and study with Gennai for five years. It is believed that he likely came into contact with a number of other artists and rangaku scholars during this time; following his return to Akita, he and Shozan composed three treatises on Western style painting. These were among the first of their kind to be produced in Japan. One of these, Shozan's 1778 essay Gahô kôryô, is considered the first Japanese essay to attempt to set down the rules of Western-style depiction (i.e. perspective and other aspects of Western painting and drawing). In it, Shozan suggests weaknesses or failings in traditional Japanese painting techniques, pointing out that these cannot distinguish a sphere from a circle, nor depict a boat on a river in such a way as to definitively depict it as near or far. Shozan then claims that Western painting techniques allow one to overcome all of these failings.

Paintings by Shozan and Naotake comprise the core of the Akita ranga oeuvre.


  • Takashina Shûji, "Eastern and Western Dynamics in the Development of Western-style Oil Painting during the Meiji Era," Paris in Japan: The Japanese Encounter with European Painting, Washington University (1987), 23.