Maekawa Bunrei: A Master of Kachōga, Active in the Modern Kyōto Art World

Kanbai Gunōzu (Plum Blossoms and Flocks of Ducks)

Kanbai Gunōzu (Plum Blossoms and Flocks of Ducks) by Maekawa Bunrei
Kanbai Gunōzu (Plum Blossoms and Flocks of Ducks) by Maekawa Bunrei

Maekawa Bunrei was born to Maekawa Gorei of the Shijō school, learning the art from this father. He excelled at Kachōga (painting of flowers and birds), and his use of vivid colors and brushwork, as shown in this painting, are characteristic of the Shijō school.

This painting, made in 1913 of his later years, shows his literary aspect inherent in the character of the Shijō school, in that it tries to communicate a sense of poetry with an attempt to integrate poetry, writing, and painting. At the same time, it is an excellent work that serves as a benchmark for Bunrei’s work.

In 1890, he was awarded the “Myōgi santōshō” prize at the 3rd Naikoku Kangyō Hakurankai exhibition and the third-prize bronze medal at the Kyōto City Industrial and Commercial exhibition in the following year, thus raising his status in the Kyōto art world. Bunrei’s fan painting “Takezu (Bamboo Painting)” remains on the ceiling of Miyawaki Baisen-an, a long-established fan wholesaler in Kyōto. This fan painting is one of those created in 1902 by 48 painters in Kyōto and 12 painters in Osaka, among others, to decorate the salon of Baisen-an. The fact that it was selected as one of these paintings signifies that Bunrei was a well-known painter within the Kyōto art world, and also indicates his high reputation.