Japan art and Nakabayashi Chikuto: Birds, China, and landscapes

Japan art and Nakabayashi Chikuto: Birds, China, and landscapes

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Nakabayashi Chikutō (1776-1853) was born in Nagoya. He was a close friend of Yamamoto Baiitsu (1783-1856), who was also born in the same city. Therefore, Chikutō and Baiitsu maintained their tight bonds from a very early age until Chikutō died just a few years before Baiitsu.

Kamiya Ten’yu (1710–1801) obtained wealth by being a merchant. Luckily for Chikutō and Baiitsu, Ten’yu was also an avid art collector. Hence, he sponsored both artists before parting from this world.

Chikutō adored nanga art. Also, like his close friend Baiitsu, he adored many angles of Chinese culture – from art to literature and philosophy.

The MET Museum says (art piece below), “Chikutō painted this large landscape in the spirit of the Plum Blossom Daoist, the name given to the acclaimed Yuan-dynasty literati painter Wu Zhen (1280–1354). Chikutō’s diligent study of Chinese literati theory and technique, as expressed in printed treatises and manuals on painting, is evident here, particularly in his masterful rendering of the rocks using a combination of long, unaccented brushstrokes in pale, dry ink and staccato accents. Together with the darker horizontals of the distant pines and foliage, such brushwork derives from the visual vocabulary associated with Wu Zhen.” 

Wu Zhen, Mi Fu, and other artists emanating from China influenced Chikutō. Hence, while Japan was mainly isolated during the Edo Period – apart from small windows – the potency of Chinese culture remained. Therefore, the Chinese impact on Japanese high culture naturally attracted artists to study past masters from centuries before.

He handed down his artistic skills and knowledge of Chinese art to his son (Chikkei) and daughter (Kiyomi). Interestingly, his son focused on Northern Style Chinese art while his daughter adored the Southern School.


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