Takashima Unpō

Undated photo of the artist

Takashima Unpō 高島雲峰*(1894-1987)

* Takashima is also seen written using the characters 高嶋 and Unpō is also seen written using the characters 雲峯. Written in kana たかしま・うんぽう.


Sources: website of the Yamagata Prefectural Government https://www.pref.yamagata.jp/ou/kikakushinko/020073/bunkasinko/11-20.html#029 and http://www.hanga-do.com/img/Hangadomeiran112.pdfNote: The below biographical information is taken from the above referenced Japanese sources and is subject to my errors of translation.

Takashima Unpō was perhaps better known by the name Takashima Yoshimitsu 高島祥光, which is often found on his nihonga paintings. He is closely associated with his home prefecture of Yamagata where he was active for many years in promoting the arts and culture, especially Japanese-style painting.

Born in May 1894 in present day Tateoka, Murayama in Yamagata Prefecture, his birth name was Kōzō 孝蔵. He later used the names Takashima Yoshimitsu 高島祥光 and Takashima Unpō 高島雲峰.

In 1912 Takashima graduated from Murayama Agricultural High School in Yamagata. In 1915, at the age of 21, he moved to Tokyo to study Western-style (yōga) painting at the Pacific Western Painting Society (Taiheiyo Gakkai). Returning home in 1917, he studied Japanese painting (nihonga) with a local artist and it was about this time that he started using the artist name () Unpō on some of his works. He returned to Tokyo in 1919 and studied with the nihonga painter Yamauchi Tamon 山内多門 (1878-1932). In 1921 he entered the newly established Aesthetic Department at Nihon University where he studied until it was closed by the September 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. Also in 1921 his work was selected for the second Chūō Bijustsuten (Central Art Exhibition) which featured the work of young lesser known artists.1 Takashima would go on to exhibit at many of the official, Ministry of Education, juried exhibitions including the Teiten and Shinbuten.  

In 1933 he studied under the literati painting (nanga) artist Komuro Suiun 小室翠雲 (1874-1945) and began exhibiting his nanga paintings at the Nihon nanga-in 日本南画院展 (Japan Literati Painting Academy). In 1941 he participated in the formation of the Daitō Nanshūin 大東南画院 (Greater East Asian Southern School Institute).2

芭蕉 山刀伐峠越の図 高嶋祥光

Bashō travelling over Natagiri Pass by Takashima Yoshimitsu, date unknown

color on silk

In 1943 and 1944 he exhibited at the infamous Army Art Association (Rikugun bijutsu kyōkai) Exhibition of War Art. In June 1945, he returned to Yamagata where he became the head of the Shunkōkai 春光会, a group of nanga painters. In 1951, he became a member of Shinkō bijutsu-in 新興美術院 (Emerging Art Institute, founded in 1937 and still operating today as the Japanese Painting Shinkō-ten) and exhibited with them yearly.

From 1965-1971 Takashima exhibited annually in solo shows at the prestigious Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi store in Tokyo.

Takashima passed away in Yamagata city on March 6, 1987.

Woodblock Prints

Primarily a painter, Takashima contributed two print designs, shown below, for the series Pictures of the Taisho Earthquake (Taishō shinsai gashū 大正震災画集).


 本所方面 大正震災画集 本所方面

Honjo Area, print 6, from the series Pictures of the Taisho Earthquake, 1926


 上野附近 大正震災画集 本所方面

Around Ueno, print 15, from the series Pictures of the Taisho Earthquake, 1926

His only other venture into prints were two sets of woodblock designs for a series titled Kyōdo Yamagata fūbutsu mokuhanga 郷土山形風物木版画 (Woodblock prints of local customs and scenery of Yamagata), eleven of which are shown below. Note: These eleven prints are not part of this collection.


郷土山形風物木版画 「大黒舞」

Takashima Yoshimitsu

Daikoku dance from the series Woodblock Prints of Local Customs and Scenery of Yamagata)


郷土山形風物木版画第九号 「春耕」月山遠望

Takashima Yoshimitsu

Spring Plowing (Distant view of Mt. Gassen), print number 9 from the series Woodblock Prints of Local Customs and Scenery of Yamagata)


郷土山形風物木版画第七号 「飛島」飛島海家

Takashima Yoshimitsu

Tobishima (Distant view of Mt. Gassen), print number 7 from the series Woodblock Prints of Local Customs and Scenery of Yamagata)

Awards Received

The following are among the awards received by Takashima:

1966 - won the 12th Mokichi Saitō Culture Award

1970 November - awarded the Orders of Sacred Treasure 5th Class

1976 October - received the Medal with Dark Blue Ribbon.

Sample Signatures and Seals of the Artist

雲峰Unpō with 雲 Un and 峯 seals

祥 Yoshi (black circular seal) and 祥光 Yoshimitsu (red rectangular seal)

祥光 Yoshimitsu with

unread seal

祥光 Yoshimitsu

with unread seals

1 The “Central Art Exhibition” was sponsored by the publisher of the art journal Child bijutsu and  was dedicated to introducing the work of young unknown artists. 2 The Greater East Asia Southern School Institute was founded in 1941 by Komuro Suiun 小室翠雲 (1874–1945) with members of the Nanga Appreciation Society and former Japan Nanga Institute. The Greater East Asia Southern School Institute opened exhibitions of nanga painting in 1942 and 1943.

Prints in Collection

click on thumbnail for print details