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Kokan Shiba

  • Biography
1747-1818. Painter and scholar of Western studies. As a boy he was good at drawing and later studied under the ukiyo?e artist Harunobu Suzuki. In 1770, after Harunobu’s death, he took over the name of Harunobu as Harunobu II and created color prints. In the following year he became a student of Shiseki So to learn the new style of naturalistic Chinese painting, which was different from ukiyo-e, and started to use the name Kokan. He was later influenced by Gennai Hiraga, the famous inventor and scientist who developed an interest in Western painting, and studied Western-style painting. In 1783 he produced Japan’s first etching. He also played the role of natural science educator with an enterprising spirit by socializing with scholars of Western studies, such as Gentaku Otsuki, a prominent doctor of Dutch medicine, and by showing an interest in Western knowledge, such as the foreign commerce and those involved in it in Nagasaki at that time.

  • Association with Minato City
Called himself Shiba after his familiar haunt, Shiba Ward

He had lived in Shinginza, Shiba (now Higashi Shimbashi), since he was a young boy and continued living there most of his life until his last years. When he started to study Chinese painting, he used the last name, Shiba, as the name of his local area of Shiba.

In 1796 he donated his naturalistic oil painting entitled Soshu Kamakura Shichiri Hamazu (Shichigahama in Kamakura) to Atago Shrine in Shiba, which depicts a pair of fishermen in the right foreground, Eno Island in the center, and Mt. Fuji in the distance (now in the possession of the Kobe City Museum).

Concise Nihon JInmei Jiten (Concise Japanese Biographical Dictionary) (Sanseido)
Shincho Nihon Bijutsu Bunko 15: Shiba Kokan (Shincho Japanese Art Collection 15: Kokan Shiba) (Yasumasa Oka / Shinchosha)

  • Related Publications
Gajin Shiba Kokan no kenkyu(A study fo Painter Kokan Shiba)(Kazunori Kawanishi /Iwamori Shoten)
Shiba Kokan no kenkyu(A study of Kokan Shiba)(Haruhiko Asakura/ Yasaka Shobo)
Ghiba Kokan kou(Thinking about Kokan Shiba)(Yoshio Nakano/Shinchosha)
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