Takeuchi Keishū

Photo of the artist, c. 1887

Takeuchi Keishū 武内桂舟 (1861-1943*)

* 1942 is the year given for the artist's passing by his descendants. (See footnote 1 in the Wikipedia Japan entry for the artist.)


Sources: [primary souce used] Woodblock Kuchi-e Prints: Reflections of Meiji Culture, Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada, University of Hawaii Press, 2000, p. 216-217; Minato City website http://www.lib.city.minato.tokyo.jp/yukari/e/man-detail.cgi?id=58 [accessed 12-18-23]; Guide to Modern Japanese Woodblock Prints: 1900 – 1975, Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada, University of Hawaii Press, 1992, p. 147; The World of the Meiji Print: Impressions of a New Civilization, Julia Meech-Pekarik, Weatherhill, 1986, p. 219-220 and as footnoted. 

Given name: Takeuchi Ginpei 武内銀平.1 Born in the Akasaka district in Edo, he was the second son of a retainer of the Kishu daimyo.  The name Keishū was given to him by Keika-en Keika, a haiku poet and friend of his father. He received no formal education "and probably learned only the rudiments of reading and writing at a small private school operated by the Kishu daimyō."2  He is primarily known as an illustrator.

Keishū was adopted into the family of Kanō Eitoku Tatsunobu (1814-1891) 狩野永悳立信3, who was head of the prestigious Nakabashi Kanō lineage. But, because of the chaos in the country, there was no work for Kanō painters so Keishū worked as a porcelain painter while studying Kanō. After the suicide of his elder brother in 1879 or 1880, he returned to his father's house and abandoned the Kanō style. After a disagreement about quality, Keishū switched from porcelain painting to making hanshita (drawing the black line images to be used for the keyblocks for woodblock prints.) 

At some point he studied under Tsukioka Yoshitoshi 月岡芳年 (1839-1892), who would give him the artist name (gō) Toshisuke 年甫

It is not known when Keishū began illustration. According to Keishū, his early years as a hanshita artist paid little and he was often hard-pressed for basic necessities. When his son mentioned a desire to become a painter, Keishū responded, "If you are able to live on air and water, you may become an artist."4 

Photo, Friends of the Inkstone c. 1887

Front row from the left:

Sazanami Iwaya, Shian Ishibashi, Kōyō Ozaki

Back row from the left:

Keishū Takeuchi, Bizan Kawakami, Suiin Emi

In 1887, he joined the writing society Ken'yūsha (Friends of the Inkstone - a literary coterie founded in 1885 by a group of Tokyo University students) and designed kuchi-e (woodblock-printed frontispiece illustrations produced for publication in Japanese novels and literary magazines) and sashi-e (illustrations in books, magazines, and newspapers) for the novels of many of its members including its leader Ozaki Kōyō (1868-1903). He became the art editor for the Bungei Kurabu literary magazine and contributed some sixty-five kuchi-e, several of which are part of this collection.

Takeuchi was such a good friend of Ozaki Kōyō that he drew the illustrations for Ozaki’s outstanding work, Konjiki Yasha (The Gold Demon), and he frequented the exclusive restaurant Koyokan (The Maple Club) in Shiba Park with the inner group members of Kenyūsha, Sazanami Iwaya (1870-1933), Shian Ishihashi, Bizan Kawakami (1869-1908), and Ozaki Kōyō, who claimed that Koyokan was the best place to observe women. The progressive atmosphere of Koyokan, which was built in 1881 by the first president of the Yomiuri shimbun newspaper, Takashi Koyasu (1836-1898), perfectly matched the ethos of a group of young writers and artists, the Kenyūsha.

Illustration titled "Kan'ichi and Miya" by Keishū from

The Gold Demon

Keishū's produced woodblocks through the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). In his later years he devoted himself to making and collecting dolls. In 1937 he was honored by the mother of Emperor Shōwa who requested that he paint a picture of court dolls for her.

Sample Signatures and Seals of the Artist

sealed Keishū 桂舟

sealed Keishū 桂舟

signed and sealed Keishū 桂舟

Keishū ga 桂舟画

Keishū ga 桂舟

1 Merritt and Yamada list his given name as Takeuchi Shinpei, p. 216, Woodblock Kuchi-e Prints: Reflections of Meiji Culture, Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada, University of Hawaii Press, 2000.2 Woodblock Kuchi-e Prints: Reflections of Meiji Culture, Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada, University of Hawaii Press, 2000, p. 216.3 While Merritt and Yamada in Woodblock Kuchi-e Prints, p. 216, state that Keishū was adopted into the family of "Kanō Eitoku (1814-1891)" other sources clarify that the artist into whose family he was adopted was that of Kanō Eitoku Tatsunobu 狩野永悳立信 (1814-1891), to eliminate confusion with the much better known Kanō Eitoku 狩野永徳 (1543-1590), a major figure in the Kanō school of Japanese painting.

last revision:



Prints in Collection

click on thumbnail for print details