Kuwayama Gyokushu (桑山玉洲)

Gyokushu KUWAYAMA (1746 – May 17, 1799) was a painter in the Southern Chinese style and art critic of the mid-Edo period in Japan. Gyokushu along with Nankai GION and Kaiseki NORO, were known as the 3 great Southern Chinese style artists of the Kishu area. Born in Ki Province (present day Wakayama Prefecture).

Gyokushu started off changing his name to 政近, 嗣幹, 嗣粲, 嗣燦, and also used several bynames, 白瑞, 子戔, 明夫 while commonly known as '茂兵次'
He subsequently went on to use multiple sobriquets and pen names.


He was born in 1746 in Wakanoura in Ki Province the son of Masuzumi KUWAYAMA the owner of a small cargo vessel and money lender. Ancestors of the Kuwayama clan were formerly samurai.
In 1585, Shigeharu KUWAYANA, founder of the family became the keeper of Wakayama-jo castle and received 30,000 koku of tributes
At some stage, life as samurai was abandoned and in stead, Gyokushu's father's (Masazumi) generation became prosperous as merchants with shops and accommodation in Kanagawa in Musashi Province.

When Gyokushu was 7 years old his father died, after that he took over his father's family business with the support of his clan. At age 19 he received permission to adopt a surname and wear a pair of swords.
In 1768 his Kanagawa branch building was destroyed by fire,
Also around that time three of his boats were shipwrecked and his business interests lurched towards heavy losses. However, soon after he enjoyed big returns from cultivating new land. He made his way as a young entrepreneur however, over time he shifted to agriculture.

As for painting, he executed some copies of Chinese style paintings when he was 19 years old. By that stage he was already actively collecting paintings and calligraphy in Kyoto and Edo. Subsequently he received his first rudimentary introduction to painting in Edo at the hands of Sekkan SAKURAI of the Sesshu School of painting, and later went on came into contact with the Kano School but both were left disappointed. Gyokushu's unpublished art critique (entitled "嗣幹画論") criticized them harshly. Around age 26 he completely ceased developing and cultivating new land and began to seriously set about painting. KUWAYAMA painted flowers and birds and admired painters Kien YANAGISAWA and Chinese Qing dynasty personality Fukyu I (aka. I Fuzhou [伊孚九]) and, Nanbin SHIN (aka Shen Nanpin/Shen Quan [沈南蘋]). However, through the influence of interactions with members of the Osaka school (Taika IKENO, (aka Taika IKE), Kenkado KIMURA etc) KUWAYAMA found his own milieu was landscapes. As such, Gyokushu was largely self-taught having painted for a long time without studying under a single master. Studying Confucianism, KUWAYAMA sought instruction from Hansai HOSOAI (a poet who wrote in the Chinese style) and at age 31 painted a portrait of HANSAI which was however, KUWAYAMA's only known rendition of a portrait.

Subsequently, poured his energies into producing landscapes and realistic scenes. At age 50 together with Kaiseki NORO (a younger associate from Kishu) and others, Gyokushu traveled to Muro-gun and from the experience produced some of his best work: "Kumano Scenic Folio" and "Nachinotaki Waterfall Folio."

Gyokushu was known in his day as a commenter and his 1790 art critique "Country Gardens Commentary" was dedicated to Masakata MASHIYAMA, the lord of the Nagashima domain. Based on his profound knowledge, Gyokushu expanded the debate on the Southern Chinese style of painting. In the autumn of that year he completed the manuscript of "Picturesque Gyokushu." It can be said that Japanese art critique was made complete by Gyokushu.

Died April 13, 1799
Died at the age of 54.
Gyokushu's gravesite is located at Sozen-ji Temple, Wakauranaka 1-chome
After death, his manuscript "Countryside Painting Commentary" were posthumously published by the artist Kenkado KIMURA. It is thought that in this work there is astute critique of Japanese Southern Chinese style painters Sotatsu TAWARAYA and Korin OGATA.