Higashiyama Kaii (東山魁夷)

Kaii HIGASHIYAMA (male, July 8, 1908 - May 6, 1999) was a Japanese painter. He is evaluated as the foremost Japanese-style painter of the Showa era. He was an honorary citizen of Ichikawa City, Chiba Prefecture.

Biography and Personal Profile
He was born in Yokohama as the second son of Kosuke HIGASHIYAMA who ran a ship chandler, and his wife, Kuni. His real name was Shinkichi. His family moved to Nishide-machi, Kobe City due to his father's business-related matters when he was three years old. While in the Hyogo Prefectural Daini-Kobe Junior High School (present Hyogo Prefectural Hyogo High School), he came to aim to be a painter, and went on to the Department of Japanese-style painting of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (present Tokyo University of Arts). He studied under Somei YUKI. In 1929 while a student, he entered a piece for the first time in the tenth Japan Art Academy Exhibition (Teiten) 'Autumn in the Mountainous Country,' and received a prize for the first time. After his graduation from the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, he went to Germany to study at Berlin University (present the Freie Universität of Berlin). In 1940, he married Sumi, a daughter of Shoko KAWASAKI, a Japanese-style painter. In 1945, he responded to a call-up for military service and the war ended when he was in Kumamoto. After he was discharged, he lived for a short time in Ochiai-mura, Nakakoma-gun, Yamanashi Prefecture (present Minami Alps City) in which Shoko, his mother and his wife had been evacuees. After his mother died in November, he moved to Ichikawa City, Chiba Prefecture and later he built his own house designed by Junzo YOSHIMURA, where he kept doing creative activities for over 50 years.

After the war, his work, 'Afterglow' won special recognition at the third Nitten (the Japan Fine Arts Exhibition) of 1947. Taking it as a turning point, he afterward pursued his own expression, seeking subject matter in the scenery. On the 'Road' which he released in 1950, he painted only a road which runs straight forward, making a new departure in the extremely simplified picture layout. His works, turned out energetically one after another based on his visits to northern Europe, Germany, Austria and China, were plain but deeply spiritual and received broad support. He took charge of the paintings on the walls and fusuma (sliding door) of Togu Gosho (the Crown Prince's Palace) in 1960 and the Imperial Palace completed in 1968. 'Huangshan Mountains in Morning Mist,' a painting on the fusuma of the Miei-do at Toshodai-ji Temple in Nara City became his masterpiece, which he had spent about ten years to complete in the 1970s. He became more famous and popular domestically by having worked on that project and came to be called a national Japanese-style painter. As he was also a good writer, he produced a lot of books not only of paintings but of writings and paintings. He maintained friendly relations with Yasunari KAWABATA.

It was he who introduced for the first time to Japan, Caspar David Friedrich, a German romanticist painter he had become acquainted with during his time studying in Germany. He is known as the person who proposed the color of the Seto-ohashi Bridge.

During his lifetime, he donated many of his representative works, including works sent to the Nitten exhibitions, to The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo and Nagano Prefecture. The Nagano Prefectural government added the Higashiyama Kaii Gallery designed by Yoshio TANIGUCHI to the Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum and the donated works are on permanent exhibition at the gallery. In addition, his works including woodblock prints were also donated to the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art in Kobe City, where he lived in his boyhood, and the Kagawa Prefectural Higashiyama Kaii Setouchi Art Museum in Kagawa Prefecture, where his father's family came from. The Higashiyama Kaii Memorial Hall opened adjacent to his house in Ichikawa City, Chiba Prefecture, where he lived from the time immediately after his discharge following the end of the war through to his death. Furthermore, in Nakatsugawa City, Gifu Prefecture (former Yamaguchi-mura Village, Nagano Prefecture), there is the Higashiyama Kaii Kokoro-no-Tabiji (Spiritual Journey) Art Gallery with a collection of about 500 woodblock prints which were donated later to express his appreciation for a warm reception he was given when he was caught in a heavy shower during a camping trip in his days in the Tokyo School of Fine Arts.

Representative Works

'Afterglow' (1947, in the possession of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo)

'Road' (1950, in the possession of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo)

'Twilight' (1955, in the possession of the Japan Art Academy)

'Dawn' (1968, in the possession of the Kitazawa Museum of Art)

'Yearend' (1968, in the possession of the Yamatane Museum of Art)

'Bright Cherry Blossoms' (1968, privately owned)

'Forest With a White Horse' (1972, in the possession of Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum, Higashiyama Kaii Gallery)

'Sound of Waves,' 'Mountain Clouds' and 'Huangshan Mountains in Morning Mist' (1975, paintings on the walls and fusuma of the Toshodai-ji Temple)

'Dawn Tide' (1968, a painting on the wall of the new Imperial Palace)

'Evening Star' (1999, in the possession of Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum, Higashiyama Kaii Gallery), his last work