Yamamoto Hosui

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  • Born: 1850
  • Died: 1906
  • Japanese: 山本芳翠 (Yamamoto Housui)

Yamamoto Hôsui was a prominent yôga (Western-style) painter of the Meiji period, the first of the students of Antonio Fontanesi to travel to Europe to study painting there.

Hôsui first began practicing painting in Kyoto, creating traditional-style ink paintings in the literati nanga mode. The work of Western-style painter Goseda Hôryû caught his eye, however, and he studied under Goseda for a time, until the Technical Fine Arts School (Kobu Bijutsu Gakkô) opened in Tokyo in 1876. There, he began to study under Antonio Fontanesi, an Italian master brought in by the Japanese government to teach modern Western painting.

The following year, Hôsui left for Paris, where he was accepted as a student by Jean-Leon Gerome, one of the greatest masters of Academic and Orientalist painting of his time. Hôsui remained in Paris for roughly ten years, becoming an accomplished Academic painter in his own right, completing highly polished and realistic depictions of nudes, portraits, and landscapes; after his return to Japan, he would also paint numerous works depicting more traditional Japanese subjects, such as Urashima Tarô and the twelve animal zodiac signs, albeit in wholly Western style.

While in Paris, he is credited with "discovering" Kuroda Seiki, a talented painter who had come to Paris to study law, and with mentoring Kuroda and encouraging him to pursue painting more seriously.

Hôsui returned to Japan in 1887, and at the end of that year joined Prime Minister Itô Hirobumi and other prominent officials on an official Imperial inspection tour of Kyûshû and Okinawa. As a yôga painter, he was valued for his skill to depict reality realistically and accurately, and so he was charged with "recording" the landscapes and sights of Okinawa for the government. Upon his return to Tokyo, he presented the Imperial Household with 20 paintings depicting famous Okinawan sites such as Shuri castle, Sôgen-ji and the ruins of Nakagusuku gusuku, as well as other landscapes and genre scenes. These paintings remain today in the Museum of the Imperial Collections (San no maru shôzôkan) at the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

Hôsui opened his own painting school in 1889 along with Gôda Kiyoshi, calling it the Seikôkan. He later turned this school over to Kuroda Seiki, who renamed it the Tenshin Dôjô and made it into the premier center for plein-air painting in Japan.


  • Harada, Minoru. Akiko Murakata (trans.). Meiji Western Painting. New York: Weatherhill, 1974. pp38-39.