Akagi Yasunobu

Akagi Yasunobu 赤城泰舒 (1889-1955) 


Sources: Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: 1900-1975, Helen Merritt, University of Hawaii Press, 1992, p. 110; A Dictionary of Japanese Artists: Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics, Prints, Lacquer, Laurance P. Roberts, Weatherhill, 1976, p. 3 and the Tokushima Modern Art Museum's website.

Akagi Yasunobu is best known as a watercolorist in the Western-style. Born in Shizuoka Prefecture in 1889 he dropped out of junior high school at the age of fifteen due to illness and went to recuperate in Hayama southwest of Tokyo. He moved to Tokyo in 1906 where he began to study watercolor painting at the Taiheiyōgakai (Pacific Western-Style Painting Association) under the tutelage of Ōshita Tōjirō (1870-1911) and Maruyama Banka (1867-1942). His work was reproduced in Ōshita's long-running (1905-1922) and influential art magazine Mizue みづゑ. He first exhibited in the 3rd Bunten Exhibition (Ministry of Education Fine Arts Exhibition) in 1909 and went on to exhibit with the Teiten (the Bunten's successor organization), the Nikakai (Second Division Society, formed in opposition to the conservative Bunten) and the Kōfukai (an association of Western-style painters).

He was a founding member of the Nihon Suisaigakai (Japan Watercolor Society) in 1913 along with Ishii Hakutei (1882-1958), Tobari Kogan (1882-1927) and Nakazawa Hiromitsu (1874-1964), all of whom made woodblock prints, and exhibited every year with them, almost until his death. In 1926 he formed the Suisai Renmei (Watercolor Federation.  From 1921 to 1941 he taught in Tokyo at Bunka Gakuin Institute and after 1942 at the Women’s Art School.

Starting in the Taisho period (1912-1926) he made self-carved woodblock prints in addition to lithographs and etchings. He wrote a number of watercolor painting instructional books such as Mizue no tehodoki 水絵の手ほどき (Watercolor Basics) published by Hakubunkan in 1930 and Mizue no hanashi 水絵の話, published in 1955 by Bijutsu Shuppan-sha as part of the series Shōnen Bijutsu Bunko.

He died from a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 66 on January 31, 1955.

1 The Ichimokukai – The First Thursday Society, which was crucial to the postwar revival of Japanese prints, was formed in 1939 by the group of people who gathered in the house of Onchi Kōshirō in Tokyo. The group met once a month to discuss print related issues. 

A Few Examples of the Artist's Paintings (for reference)

Note:  Additional woodblock prints of the artist can be seen on the website of the The National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo. 

Boy Playing Guitar, 1928


tempura on paper


Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art

Garden Zinnias, 1951


watercolor on paper

National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo S0041021  

White Sand, 1912


watercolor on paper

National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo S0023024 

Clouds (Orihara), 1945


watercolor on paper


Shizuoka Prefectural Museum of Art

Nikko Lilies around Oze Marsh, 1954


watercolor on paper

National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo S000138

Prints in Collection

click on thumbnail for print details