Japan art and Ogata Gekko: Meiji to Taisho

Japan art and Ogata Gekko: Meiji to Taisho

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Ogata Gekkō (1859-1920) was born during the late stages of the Edo Period. Thus his art belongs to the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taisho (1912-1926) periods of history.

He was born in modern-day Tokyo (Edo). Similar to other artists of this period, Gekkō grew up fast. Hence, he taught himself the intricacies of art. Therefore, by his early twenties, he was illustrating books, involved in newspapers, and designing prints.

The Nakagawa-machi Bato Hiroshige Museum of Art says, “Ogata Gekko (1859-1920) was active as an artist from the Meiji to Taisho periods. Gekko did not have a teacher and learned his artistry on his own, but produced a great number of oshi-e fabric pictures and woodblock prints, and is representative of the popular artists of the age. His subject matter was wide and far-ranging and included Edo and Meiji landscapes, figure prints and ancient legends; his works appealed to many people of the age with their rich expressiveness—from delicate and sensitive flowers and beautiful women to powerful heroes.”

Gekkō met influential artistic scholars, including Okakura Kazuko and Ernest Fenellosa. His individual approach to art appealed to many individuals.

The Portland Art Museum says, “His print style is more reminiscent of paintings than traditional woodblocks and his designs required great skill of the carvers and printers who executed them… Along with his contemporary Watanabe Seitei, he was instrumental in introducing the sashiage printing technique that closely simulated the appearance of watercolor painting.”

Gekkō had a freshness about him. This concerns him being self-taught and making a mark in the art world when only young. Thus he could experiment more with other styles of art even if connected to the traditional ukiyo-e world that Gekkō belonged to.


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