Nakazawa Hiromitsu

Undated photo of the artist

Nakazawa Hiromitsu 中沢弘光 (中澤弘光) (1874-1964)


Sources: website of the Independent Administrative Institution Nation Institutes for Cultural Heritage, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties [accessed 11-18-23]and as footnoted.  

Trained as a Western-style (yōga) painter, Nakazawa is, perhaps, best remembered for his illustrations appearing in novels, sketch-tour books, newspapers and magazines.

He is credited with being among the first artists to use novels as a vehicle for his illustrations, the first of which appeared (as a lithograph) in the third volume of Kosugi Tengaiin’s 1903 novel, Makaze Koikaze (Winds of demon and love), a story of a modern upper-class Japanese schoolgirl.1 Along with a number of other Western-style artists, Nakazawa saw the possibilities in the novel for Western-style illustrations. Undoubtedly, his most famous book illustrations (rendered as woodblock prints) were created for Yosano Akiko’s (1878-1942) 1913 translation into modern Japanese of Genji monogatari, titled Shin'yaku genji monogatari (A New Translation of The Tale of Genji).2 “[P]ublished by Kanao Bun’endō with breathtakingly gorgeous woodblock-printed covers and end-pieces and fifty-four* illustrations by the Western-style painter and illustrator Nakazawa Hiromitsu (1874-1964), [it] received positive reviews in major literary magazines and newspapers…”3

* the actual number of woodblock illustrations is fifty-seven. 

Illustration (lithograph) by Nakazawa appearing in the novel Makaze Koikaze by Kosuki Tengai, 1903

The four volumes with slipcovers of Shin'yaku genji monogatari.

The cover designs are by Nakazawa as are all the woodblock illustrations

in the volumes, such as the above illustration from Chapter 50 Azumaya.

Early Training

Born in Tokyo’s Shibaura district into a samurai family, Nakazawa lost his parents at a young age and was raised by his grandmother. As a teenager, he studied at Soyama Sachihiko’s (1859-1892) Daikōkan Western-style painting studio, under the tutelage of Soyama and Horie Moriaki (1852–1932). Along with fellow artists Okada Saburōsuke (1869-1939), Wada Eisaku (1874-1959) and Miyake Katsumi (1874-1954) he was to “inherit” the school upon Soyama’s death.4 In 1896, at the age of twenty-two, Nakazawa entered the Western Painting Department of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts studying under Kuroda Seiki (1866-1924), graduating in 19005. While studying with Seiki he participated in the 1896 founding of the Hakubakai 白馬会 (White Horse Society), dedicated to promoting plein-air French academic painting, contributing woodblock prints to their magazine, Kōfūm.

Sketch-Tour Genre

Source: "Sketch-tour Books and Prints of the Early Twentieth Century" by Scott Johnson, appearing in Andon 37, June 1991.

In 1905, Nakazawa began his work both as author and illustrator in the very popular sketch-tour genre, ultimately becoming its most prolific artist. The genre, which saw artists traveling throughout the country and the Japanese colonies sketching and writing about the places visited, lasted until 1920. Nakazawa’s contribution to this genre included: 

Gojūsantsugi suketchi (Sketches of the Fifty-Three Stations) - published in 1905 and containing five tipped in color woodblock prints designed by the artist (pencil sketches with added color wash) and produced by the famous woodblock carver Igami Bonkotsu (1877-1933) and the well-established printer Nishimura Kumakichi (1861-c.1941). 

Nihon Meishō Shasei Kikō (Sketches and Travel Notes on Japanese Sights) - five volumes published between 1906 and 1912 by Yamada Kyūrō using the work of multiple artists including Nakazawa and containing 55 lithograph and woodblock illustrations. 

Kinai kenbutsu (Scenes of the Inner Provinces) - three volumes published by Kanao Tanejirō (1879-1947) (the publishing house Bunendō) in 1911-1912, with all but one of the woodblock print illustrations designed by Nakazawa with woodblock carving by Igami and printing by Nishimura. (See this collection's book IHL Cat. #2034.)

Bungei Chiri Tōkaidō Gojūsantsugi (The Topography of the 53 Stations of the Tōkaidō in Words and Pictures) - published by Yokohama Kendō (1871-1943) in 1911 using the work of multiple artists including Nakazawa.

Shin Nihon kenbutsu (Scenes of New Japan) - published by Kanao Bunendō in 1918 showing scenes from the growing Japanese Empire using the work of multiple artists including Nakazawa.6 

Kinai Angya (Pilgrimage to Kinai) - published by Kanao Bunendō in 1919 showing scenes from the five kuni in the immediate vicinity of Kyoto created by multiple artists including Nakazawa.

Shin Nihon kenbutsu (A New Sightseeing Tour of Japan) - published by Kanao Tanejirō (1879-1947) (the publishing house Bunendō) in  1918, comprised of five sections: Taiwan no maki  台湾之巻, Karafuto no maki  樺太之巻, Chōsen no maki  朝鮮之巻, Manshū no maki  満州之巻, and Chintao no maki  青島之巻. Illustrations by ten artists in addition to Nakazawa. (See image below.)

With the demise of the sketch-tour book, partially due to the rising popularity of shin hanga single sheet landscape prints by artists such as Kawase Hasui (1883-1957), Bunendō began issuing series of single-sheet woodblock prints depicting artist travels, with minimal accompanying text, thereby putting primary emphasis on the prints. 

Continuing to work with Bunendō, Nakazawa would go on to design the 1922 fifty-print series titled Nihon Taikan (A Compendium of Japan) and the 1925 series/portfolio Saigoku sanjūsan kasho junrei gakan (Picture Album of the Thirty-Three Pilgrimage Places of the Western Provinces).7 (See image below.)

right: cover of Shin Nihon kenbutsu, artist unknown

left: color woodblock by Nakazawa from Shin Nihon kenbutsu

Portfolio cover and the print Nachi-san (Seiganto-ji, temple 1)1 from the series/portfolio Saigoku sanjūsan kasho junrei gakan (Picture Album of the Thirty-Three Pilgrimage Places of the Western Provinces) the complete portfolio of which is in this collection.

Other Illustrations

In addition to illustrations for novels and sketch-tour books, Nakazawa provided artwork for literary magazines including Myōjō 明星 (Morning Star), an influential poetry magazine started by the poet Yosano Tekkan (1878–1942), published between February 1900 and November 1908. During that same period he created a large number of designs for postcards including a 1905 series of deluxe woodblock printed postcards titled Beautiful women and the senses for the publisher Sunbikai in which Nakazawa combined more traditional imagery with European Art Nouveau motifs.8

Beautiful women and the senses, 1905

woodblock printed postcards

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 2002-1051, 1052, 1053, 1054, 1055, 1056

Woodblock Prints - A Sampling (prints not in this collection)

Miho no Matsubara yori Mitaru Fuji from the series Twelve Views of Mt. Fuji, 1907

publisher: Bunendō


Flower of the Wave (Nami no Hana) kuchi-e, c.1910


The Heroine Matsukaze from the series the Complete Works of Chikamatsu, 1921

Willow Tree on the Bank of Sarusawa Pond (Sarusawa Ike Hotori no Yanagi), 1935

publisher: Katō Junji

Inn at Gion (Gion no yado), 1935

publisher: Katō Junji


Dyer's House,

Kinai kenbutsu


Vol. 3, 1911


Early Spring on Nihonbashi,

c. 1925

(source: Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco 1998.120.26)


Nakazawa and his painting Blue Light, exhibited at the 10th Bunten

exhibition, 1916

Source: catalog of the exhibition "Nakazawa Hiromitsu: Retrospective Exhibition of Commemorating the 140th Anniversary of the Artist's Birth"

Nakazawa first started exhibiting his oil paintings with the Meiji Arts Society (Meiji bijutsu-kai), the first Western-style painting society in Japan, but withdrew from that exhibition in 1896 upon the formation of the Hakubakai. As an oil painter his work was accepted into the first Bunten Exhibition (Ministry of Education Exhibition) in 1907 and in 1909 his work Reminiscences (shown right), depicting a Buddhist nun and her vision of the deity Shō Kannon, was awarded second place. He would continue to exhibit regularly with the Bunten and its successor organizations the Teiten and Nitten. In 1910 he became a judge at the Bunten and continued in that role with the Bunten’s successor, the Teiten. 

Reminiscences, 1909

oil on canvas, 258.0 × 127.5 cm

The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

In addition to the artistic organizations noted above, Nakazawa founded the Kofūkai (Light and Wind Club) with Katsumi Miyake and Hisui Sugiura (1876-1965) in 1912 and the Japan Watercolor Painting Society (Nihon Suisaigakai) in 1913. After returning in 1924 from two years of travel in Europe, visiting France, England and Spain, he founded the Hakujitsu-kai, an organization of Western-style painters still operating today.

Awards and Recognition

Nakazawa was made a member of the Imperial Fine Arts Academy (帝国芸術院会 Teikoku bijutsuin) in 1930 and its successor, the Imperial Art Academy (帝国美術院会 Teikoku geijutsuin) in 1937, and in 1944 he became an Imperial Household Artist (Teishitsu gigeiin 帝室技芸員).9 After the war, he both exhibited in, and became an advisor to, the Nitten and in 1957 he became a “person of cultural merit” (Bunka kōrōsha).10 In May of 1964 he was given the 3rd Order of the Rising Sun. 

Nakazawa passed away at the Nihon Medical University hospital in Tokyo Bunkyo Ward on September 8, 1964 at the age of 91.

Recent Exhibitions

Kichijoji Art Museum, Musashino, "Hiromitsu Nakazawa: Published Art and Sketches from the Meiji and Taisho Periods" 2018 

"The accomplished artist Hiromitsu Nakazawa (1874–1964) provided artwork for literary magazines during the Meiji and Taisho periods, including the monthly Myojo, directed by the poet Akiko Yosano. This exhibition looks back on Nakazawa’s creative legacy with more than 200 rare works including sketches as well as printed and published pieces from the height of his career. Also displayed are examples of Nakazawa’s oil and watercolor paintings and a self-portrait by his teacher, the great painter Seiki Kuroda."11 

Sogo Museum of Art "Retrospective Exhibition Commemorating the 140th Anniversary

of the Artist's Birth", 2014

"Hiromitsu Nakazawa (1874–1964) was a prominent Western-style painter in the Meiji through Showa eras who also produced outstanding works of design. This exhibition, Nakazawa’s first major retrospective, takes a comprehensive look at his art with major oil paintings, watercolors, sketches, and book designs, shedding light on little-known aspects of his career."12 

1 The novel was serialized before being published in book form2 Translation in Modern Japan edited by Indra Levy, Routledge, 2011, p. 2433 Yosano was a poet, scholar and translator and her translation brought the ancient novel into contemporary colloquial language and made it into popular novel for the masses.4 Meiji Western Painting,Arts of Japan 6, Minoru Harada, p. 28.5 The school was founded in 1887 through the efforts of Ernest Fenollosa and Okakura Tenshin to combat the influence of Western art but by 1896 a Western art department was added.6 to see the complete series go to Smithsonian Institution Freer Gallery of Art [accessed 11-18-23]7 originally published in 1925 and re-published in 1946, few prints are extant from the original edition.8 Art of the Japanese Postcard: The Leonard A. Lauder Collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Anne Nishimura Morse, J Thomas Rimer, Kendall H Brown, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2004, p. 265.9 an artist who was officially appointed by the Imperial Household Ministry to create works of art for the Tokyo Imperial Palace and other imperial residences. [accessed 11-18-23]10 an official Japanese recognition and honor which is awarded annually to select people who have made outstanding cultural contributions.11 Tokyo Art Beat [accessed 11-18-23]12 Tokyo Art Beat [accessed 11-18-23]

Sample Artist Signature and Seals 

弘 Hiro
last revision: 11-18-2023

Prints in Collection

click on thumbnail for print details

Kinai kenbutsu

Kinai kenbutsu, Kyōto no maki,


IHL Cat. #2398

Kinai kenbutsu, Yamato (Nara) no maki,


IHL Cat. #2034

Shin'yaku Genji monogatari

Shin'yaku Genji monogatari, jōkan

1913 (orig. 1912)

IHL Cat. #2288

Shin'yaku Genji monogatari, chūkan


IHL Cat. #2289

Shin'yaku Genji monogatari, gekan no ichi, 1913

IHL Cat. #2290

Shin'yaku Genji monogatari, gekan no ni,


IHL Cat. #2219

Illustration for Chapter 2 from the novel Shin'yaku Genji Monogatari, jōkan, 1913

IHL Cat. #2270

Illustration for Chapter 6 from the novel Shin'yaku Genji Monogatari, jōkan, 1913

IHL Cat. #2101

Illustration for Chapter 13 from the novel Shin'yaku Genji Monogatari, jōkan, 1913

IHL Cat. #2046

Shin'yaku Heike monogatari

Shin'yaku Heike Monogatari, jōkan,


IHL Cat. #2220

Shin'yaku Heike Monogatari, gekan,


IHL Cat. #2221

Picture Album of the Thirty-Three Pilgrimage Places of the Western Provinces

Prints by Nakazawa Hiromitsu

Album Box with Print of Kannon

for the Picture Album of the

 Thirty-Three Pilgrimage Places of the

Western Provinces, 1925

IHL Cat. #2413

Table of Contents (front), 1925

IHL Cat. #2413.01

Table of Contents (back), 1925

IHL Cat. #2413.01

Opening Inscription, 1925

IHL Cat. #2413.02 

Preface (page 1), 1925

IHL Cat. #2413.03

Preface (page 2), 1925

IHL Cat. #2413.04

Preface (page 3), 1925

IHL Cat. #2413.05

Gasan (words by Sasaki Nobutsuna), 1925

IHL Cat. #2413.06

Gasan (words by Nakazawa Hiromitsu), 1925

IHL Cat. #2413.07

Gasan (words by Ishikura Suiyō), 1925

IHL Cat. #2413.08

Nachi-san (Seiganto-ji, temple 1), 1925

IHL Cat. #2413.09