Taguchi Beisaku

Undated self-portrait

Taguchi Beisaku 田口米作 (1864-1903)


Source: The Hotei Encyclopedia of Japanese Woodblock Prints, Volume 2, Amy Reigle Newland, Hotei Publishing, 2005, p. 461; Kiyochika Artist of Meiji Japan, Henry D. Smith II, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, 1988, p. 14; Illustrating Asia: Comics, Humor Magazines, and Picture Books, John A. Lent, University of Hawaii Press, 2001, P.206; The Sino-Japanese War, Nathan Chaikin, self-published, 1983, p. 33 and as footnoted.

Beisaku [ (artist name): Ōsen] – Born in Ibaraki Prefecture, the son of a rice merchant, he moved to Tokyo in 1873, where he first studied with Nakamura Banzan 中村晩山 (b. 1834), a Maruyama-Shijō school painter, and later, from 1881, with Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915), one of the great late period ukiyo-e artists. Little is known about Beisaku's relationship with Kiyochika, although it is reported that he first met Kiyochika at the age of 13 while he was sketching at the Atago Shrine in Tokyo.1 His name appears as “Taguchi Yoneharu”2 (presumably his given name) on two of the prints in Kiyochika’s 1884-1885 series One Hundred Views of Musashi as a “touching-up brush.” Kiyochika would lead Beisaku into caricature, enabling him to succeed Kiyochika as chief cartoonist for the Marumaru chinbun in 1892. As a cartoonist he is credited as playing an important role in the creation of narrative strips. He created the first serialized short narrative cartoon in 1896, a six-panel cartoon run over three issues. During the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95, Beisaku emerged as a print artist in his own right, designing several war triptychs that were reminiscent of Kiyochika's work, but far more skilled in the presentation of figures. He was director of Kiyochika’s art school in the mid-1890s, and thereafter continued work at the Marumaru chinbun.

He died young in 1903 at the age of 39 and his grave can be seen at the Inkoin Temple, 2-6-8 Kotobuki, Daito-ku, Tokyo. Beisaku left several disciples - Takita Gyuho (?-?) and Nagata Kinshin 永田錦心 (1885-1927), who went to study with Kobayashi Kiyochika after their master's death.

1 “'Shikisai-Shinron' of Taguchi Beisaku and Its Surroundings" (田口米作の『色彩新論』とその周辺), Kunimoto Norifumi (國本学史), Faculty of Letters, Keio University (慶應義塾大学文学部)

2 Also seen as Taguchi Yonesaku.

Colors and Tones

Source: The Sino-Japanese War, Nathan Chaikin, self-published, 1983, p. 33.

In the late Meiji period great interest developed in Western color theory. Beisaku developed his own perspectives on the topic and would write the book Shikisai-Shinron ("The New Theory of Colors"), published in 1907 after his death, based upon his own experience as a caricaturist and ukiyo-e woodblock pirnt artist. 

Chaikan paraphrases the artist as saying:

For a long time, no evolution took place in the art of painting in our country. One of the major reasons being our total unawareness of the laws of colors. Ignorant of the basic principles ruling the essence of shading colors, we failed to grasp the means directing the traditions of our school. Or, at least, according to our experiences, we more or less attempted to assemble the various ranges of coloring. Therefore we could not answer questions concerning this phenomenon.  We sorely missed instructions about fundamental principles ruling art in the Meiji period, or improve over the old ways of painting.  

In the introduction to his book, The New Theory of Colors (Shikisai Shinron) he claimed: 'All objects existing in the cosmos, visible to our eyes, have colors. They can be placed grosso modo within two categories: natural and artificial, all pigments consisting of a blend of three major tones. Born of a single principle which gave birth to an infinity of combination of shades, both varied and exquisite...'

Artist's Seals and Signatures



米作 / 作

Beisaku / saku

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Prints in Collection


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