Monday, July 28, 2014

The Edo Japanese artists Keiga & Hokusai and P.F. von Siebold

Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1868), a German doctor, who studied zoology, botany, and ethnology, plus earned a doctorate in surgery, obstetrics and internal medicine, prepared to leave in 1828 for Europe after a stay of six years as physician at the Dutch East India Company Dejima Factory, the only trading post authorized by the Tokugawa Shogunate.

His belongings became wet dampened during a storm, and when laid out on the deck for drying, discovery was made by a Nagasaki Magistrate official of banned maps of Japan drawn by Tadataka Ino, and a Haori jacket with a hollyhock crest of the Tokugawa family, etc. During the intensive investigation that followed, Kageyasu Takahashi of the Nagasaki Magistrate, who had given the maps to Siebold, was sentenced for capital punishment. Genseki Habu, the Shogunate doctor responsible for the Shogunate Haori, was deprived of his post, and Siebold was exiled for life out of Japan.

Implicated in this conspiracy were more than 50 other Japanese friends, doctors, interpreters and tradesmen who were punished as grave criminals. Choei Takano, who was a leading disciple of Siebold, was also a victim, but fled with luck. This is known as the Siebold Incident.

Toyosuke Kawahara (1786-1865) was another victim who was punished and disappeared from Dejima, along with his art teacher Yushi Ishizaki, who was the elite official Connoisseur of the Chinese Painting of the Nagasaki Magistrate. They were simply too close to Siebold. Their indictments were for such trivial matters as the family crests of the clans in guard at Nagasaki appearing in their art pieces.

Toyosuke was referred to Siebold by Yushi as a promising painter; Siebold was eagerly waiting for the arrival of Carl Hubert de Villanueve, a French artist whom he requested as an important reinforcement to his research crew in Dejima.

Toyosuke was hastily added to Siebold's entourage to travel Edo. He was to paint scenes of major towns and ports on the way to Edo from Nagasaki, and fauna and flora upon Siebold's request. Toyosuke learned through trial-and-error and delivered to Siebold's liking. He gradually gained confidence developing the genre, creating an east-meet-west style that not only met the scientist's demands, but deeply impressed Siebold. He eventually learned western oil painting from French artist Villanueve and applied these techniques to his figure paintings.

Most of the Siebold's collections, including 12,000 specimens, had been shipped out before the above scandal. Immediately upon his return from Japan, Siebold began sorting them and published books, first with his own money, later with the help of Leyden University and Dutch King William II. 'Bibliotheca Japonica', 'Fauna Japonica', 'Flora Japonica' came out mostly between 1830 and 1860, acclaimed as the "books of miracle". In addition to the text, 'Siebold Bibliotheca' has 367 lithograph illustrations, most of them based on Toyosuke's paintings.

About 1,000 of Toyosuke's paintings are now at Leiden University museum and Komarov Botanical Institute Museum in St. Petersburg, the largest collection of one of the great Japanese Edo artists in Europe. He is better known in Europe than in Japan.

Toyosuke (changed his name to Keiga Taguchi after the Siebold incident) painted Russian Admiral Yevfimy Putyatin when he visited Nagasaki in 1855 on a diplomatic mission. Also, he signed the portrait of Grandma Kiku Nagashma in Nagasaki, supposedly painted in 1860. We surmise he lived until 1860.

Meanwhile, with a pardon, Siebold returned to Japan in 1859 and met his daughter Oine, and stayed until 1862. It is doubtful that Toyosuke and Siebold were ever reunited.

While searching for the contemporary painters of Toyosuke aka Keiga, I found Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849), 25 years senior to Keiga. Hokusai, is the one and only Japanese who was included in Life's magazine "Top 100 who Made the Millennium" for his "Ukiyo-e" woodprints, including "the Great Wave and Fuji". Do not be surprised if Keiga had something to do with Hokusai avoiding subrogation in the Siebold Incident.

Hokusai was approached by both the Dejima Dutch Captain (obligated to travel to Edo from Nagasaki every four years, like the Daimyos) and Siebold to do sketches of the daily lives of Japanese. The captain paid Hokusai at the contracted price but some quarrels were recorded between Hokusai and Siebold. Siebold demanded a discount and Hokusai refused. The dispute was settled when the captain heard about it through interpreters and paid Hokusai the full price. Hokusai’s works appeared on Siebold’s encyclopedic “Nippon”.

What about Hokusai's involvement in the Siebold case? Tokugawa banned the sale of his art work to foreigners. My question is: did the Hokusai deal precede the banning because the captain's names differed (the contractor versus the payer)? Keiga might have stepped in and possibly gotten Hokusai off the hook.

If true, what a laudable act it was to let the senior Hokusai churn out his world-class ukiyo-e during his twilight years.

1 comment:

inpu said...

Where do you get info about captain's name on the deal? Is there some document left concerning this deal? How do you know Tokugawa forbade Hokusai to sale his works to foreigners? Thank you for this article!