Nomura Yoshimitsu

Nomura Yoshimitsu 野村芳光 (1870-1958) 

Undated photo of the artist

BIOGRAPHY

Sources: Modern Japanese Prints, Dorothy Blair, The Toledo Art Museum 1997 (Printed from a photographic reproduction of two exhibition catalogues of modern Japanese prints published by The Toledo Museum of Art in 1930 and 1936); Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints - The Early Years, Helen Merritt, University of Hawaii Press, 1998, p. 87-88; Kawamo Art Research Institute https://www.kawamo-art.com/prologue/ and as footnoted.

Born in Osaka, Nomura Yoshimitsu was a fourth generation ukiyo-e painter of the Utagawa School. His father and first teacher was Nomura Yoshikuni 野村芳国 (Yoshikuni III; 1855-1903), a direct descendant of Utagawa Yoshikuni I, a student of Utagawa Kuniyoshi 歌川 国芳 (1797-1861). At the age of fourteen, he began studying painting under the tutelage of the first-generation Yoshikuni, who was a distant relative. By the age of sixteen, he had moved to study under the second-generation Yoshikuni in Kyoto adopting the name Yoshimitsu. While still a teenager, Yoshimitsu exhibited sufficient talent to establish his own school.1  In 1891, at the age of 21, he began studying Western and panoramic painting in Kyoto under the French painter and etcher George Bigot (1860-1927) frequenting Bigot's lodging near Kodai-ji Temple, where he seems to have also learned Western copperplate engraving and drawing.

Bigot took a liking to Yoshimitsu and intended to invite him to France. However, Yoshikuni, unwilling to part with Yoshimitsu, reportedly hastily arranged his marriage to his eldest daughter to prevent him from leaving. In the 1930s, Yoshimitsu seemed to have exhibited oil paintings at the Kansai Bijutsu Kai (currently Kansai Bijutsuin), but he did not pursue a career as a Western-style painter.

Nomura was to paint over thirty panoramic pictures, two of which, one of the Satsuma Rebellion and the other, in 1895, of the Japanese attack on Port Arthur, were to bring him fame. The Port Arthur battle scene was exhibited at the Fourth Industrial Exhibition held in Kyoto in 1895 and later exhibited at the Panorama Hall [Nisshin-no yaku kōkai sensō], in Tokyo’s Ueno Park2. The English language Japan Weekly Mail was to note: “The Port Arthur Panorama at Uyeno Park, Tokyo was courteously thrown open to the representatives of the foreign press on Wednesday afternoon. The painting was carried out by Nomura Yoshikuni and Nomura Yoshimitsu, of Kyoto, old pupils of Mr. Bigot, and is a spirited performance.”3

Starting in about 1915 and continually until at least 1936, Nomura designed the scenery for Kyoto’s annual Miyako Odori dance festival, using his expertise in both ukiyo-e painting and  panoramic landscape.

The Artist's Prints

Yoshimitsu was primarily a painter who designed a limited number of prints4, the most famous of which are a 1931 series of six landscape prints published under the title “Kyōraku Meishō京洛名所 (Famous Places of Kyoto) by the Kyoto publisher Shōtarō Satō.5 The prints were priced at 20 yen in an edition size of 200. Exhibited at the 1936 Toledo Exhibition, the prints were described in the catalog as skillfully harmonizing “the style of Ukiyoe painting and the method of European panoramic sceneries…” 

For images of the six prints in the series see this collection's print Autumn Scenery at Takao from the series Famous Places of Kyoto.

Watercolor Paintings by the Artist

The Artelino archive displays eight watercolors by the artist, most depicting bijin (beautiful women), two of which are shown below.

Beauty with Shamisen

early 20th century

7 1/2 x 16 1/2 in. (19 x 42 cm)

Beauty with Fan

early 20th century

10 x 16 in. (25.5 x 40.5 cm)

1 While Merritt tells us that Nomura established his own school, I have not been able to find any information on Nomura's school or his students.2 The first panoramas in Japan were built in 1890 in Ueno and Asakusa parks in Tokyo, both featuring war scenes. During the Sino-Japanese War, these panoramas were changed to scenes of Port Arthur and Pyongyang. Panoramas were one of the most prominent ways in which the Japanese public became exposed to Western techniques of oil painting. [Source: Rearranging the Landscape of the Gods : The Politics of a Pilgrimage Site in Japan, 1573-1912, Sarah Thal, University of Chicago Press, 2005, p. 364 (footnote 5 for chapter 12).3 The Japan Weekly Mail Aug 15, 1896 No. 7 Vol XXVI4 While Merritt in Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints, p. 112 states that Nomura is “reported to have designed actor prints", I have not located any other references to these prints or images of them.5 Shōtarō also published prints of the artists Miki Suizan (1887-1957) and Yoshikawa Kanpō (1894-1979). 

Sample Signatures and Seals of the Artist

芳光

Yoshimitsu

芳光

Yoshimitsu

三光會

sankō kai

三光會

sankō kai

三光會

sankō kai

三光會

sankō kai

三光会印

sankō kai in

Prints in Collection

click on thumbnail for print details