Suzuki Shonen

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  • Birth: 1848
  • Death: 1918
  • Japanese: 鈴木松年 (Suzuki Shounen)

Suzuki Shônen was a major Kyoto-based Nihonga artist of the late Meiji period. He was the son of Suzuki Hyakunen, the founder of the Suzuki school of painting, and succeeded his father as head of that school.

Shônen was trained by his father, and appeared alongside him and a number of other artists at the second Kyoto Exposition in 1873. His style, however, contrasted strongly with that of his father, in that his works were much bolder. In addition, he was quite self-confident and outspoken, unlike the reserved Hyakunen, and flaunted his wealth and artistic ability; he had a house lavishly constructed to resemble a temple, and came to be known for his bold tendency to openly criticize other artists. While many other artists supplemented their income by painting designs for textiles, Shônen not only disparaged such activities as not being true art, but disparaged those artists who engaged in such activities as well. A rivalry and animosity between him and Shijô school head Kôno Bairei was particularly strong.

Shônen would later go on to show at a number of other expositions both domestic and foreign, winning prizes at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. In 1907, he declined an invitation to sit on the jury of the first Bunten exhibition, claiming that officials, ignorant of art, would meddle in the jury's decisions.

A versatile artist, Shônen is known not only for his landscapes, but also for bird and flower paintings as well as figural paintings, not only in monochrome ink, but often also making use of color and gold. His ink & brush styles and techniques clearly draw upon literati, Kanô school, and Maruyama and Shijô school styles, but Shônen's work might show most the influence of the work of Soga Shôhaku; Shônen came to be referred to sometimes as "a modern-day Shôhaku" (今蕭白). One of his most common themes was the pine tree, the "Shô" in his name, Shônen, being the character for "pine."

Shônen kept many mistresses, and had an affair with painter Uemura Shôen which resulted in a son, Uemura Shôko, who also grew up to be an accomplished artist. Though he had many students, only a few achieved any degree of success.


  • Berry, Paul and Michiyo Morioka (eds.) Literati Modern: Bunjinga from Late Edo to Twentieth-Century Japan. Honolulu: Honolulu Academy of Arts, 2008. p299.