Yamada Toshitada

undated photo of artist

Yamada Toshitada 山田年忠 (1868-1934)


Sources: Japan wikipedia https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/山田年忠 [accessed 12-31-23]; List of Modern Japanese Print Artists (1900-1945) [近代日本版画家名覧(1900-1945)] http://www.hanga-do.com/img/Hangadomeiran126.pdf, p. 68 [accessed 12-31-23]; Independent Administrative Institution Nation Institutes for Cultural Heritage https://www.tobunken.go.jp/materials/gahou/109394.html [accessed 12-31-23]; Woodblock Kuchi-e Prints: Reflections of Meiji Culture, Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada, University of Hawaii Press, 2000, p. 111-112; A Dictionary of Japanese Artists: Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics, Prints, Lacquer, Laurance P. Roberts, Weatherhill, 1976, p. 195. 

While initially a student of the famous ukiyo-e print artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892), he later studied under the painter Kawabata Gyokushō 川端玉章 (Japanese, 1842–1913) and is best known as a Japanese-style (nihonga) painter and an illustrator, using the artist name of Yamada Keichū 山田敬中. He created relatively few ukiyo-e designs during his career.

In addition to the artist name (gō) Toshitada 年忠, bestowed on him by Yoshitoshi, the signatures Nanshi Toshitada 南志年忠, Nansai Toshitada 南斎年忠 and Shimane Toshitada 島根年忠 appear on his ukiyo-e prints. Other associated with the artist are Katoku 可得 and Toshinaka 年中.

Yamada was not a prolific print artist if his extant prints shown on the web are an accurate gauge, but he created at least six triptychs from early 1887 into 1894, which are shown below.

Famous Places of Tokyo: Panoramic View of Azumabashi Bridge

Made of Iron, December 1887

東京名所 吾妻橋鉄橋之全圖

source: Edo-Tokyo Museum 87102101

Illustration of the Celebration of the Constitution,

February, 1887


source: Waseda University Library チ05_04120

Great Japan Imperial Constitution Promulgation Ceremony,

February 1887


source: Digital Collections of Keio University Libraries

Scenic View of Tokyo, Ueno Park Tōshō-gū Shrine,

February 1889

東京名所  上野公園地東照宮

source: The Lavenberg Collection of Japanese Prints

Cherry Blossom Viewing at the Sumida Bank, Mukojima,

April 1889


source: Edo-Tokyo Museum 87102101

Imperial Silver Wedding Anniversary, 1894


source: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria


Born in Asakusa, Tokyo on April 2, 1868 his birth name was Shimane Chūzō 島根忠蔵. After graduating from Terabe Elementary School in 1881 he studied haiku and the Chinese classics until, at age of eighteen, he came under the tutelage of Yoshitoshi, mentor to several hundred artists over his career. In 1896, he was to become a lecturer at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts but left and would later join the Japan Art Institute formed by Okakura Kakuzō 岡倉覚三 , a.k.a. Okakura Tenshin 岡倉天心, (1863-1913). 

It is unknown exactly how long Yamada studied with Yoshitoshi and whether he was still in Yoshitoshi's studio when in 1889 he won a prize at the Japan Youth Painting Promotion Society Exhibition 日本美術協会青年絵画共進会 for his painting 年の市図 (Picture of the Year End Fair.)

In 1890 he worked for a short time as an illustrator for the Edo shinbun (The Edo Newspaper) and Edokai zasshi (Journal of the Edo Society) and in the late 1890s he designed a few kuchi-e  (book illustrations), using theKeichū, examples of which appears below. The few kuchi-e he designed, along with at least one surimono print in the collection of the British Museum and the woodblock prints shown above, may be the bulk of his print work.

Mother and daughter reading, 1897

appearing in Bungei kurabu dai 3-kan, dai 12-hen

Illustration titled 親類の格 from the novel

Tajō Takon (Passions and Regrets)

by Ozaki Kōyō, 1897

In 1891 he became a student of Kawabata Gyokushō (1848-1913), a Maruyama-Shijō school painter at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (Tokyo Bijutsu Gakkō). In that same year, he participated along with a number of other young artists in forming, under the leadership of Okakura Tenshin (1863-1913), the scholar and founder of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, the Japan Youth Painting Association (Nihon Seinen Kaiga Kyōkai). It is said that Okakura encouraged his career and Yamada was to go on to become a teacher at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts.  Yamada would also go on to teach at the Kawabata Art School, founded by Kawabata after he left the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. 

In 1896 Yamada joined the Japan Painting Association (Nihon Kaiga Kyōkai 日本絵画協会), formed by students of Okakaura, and in the following year was awarded a silver medal in their second competitive exhibition. It is reported that he took part in the founding of Okakura's Nihon Bijutsuin (Japan Art Institute) in 1898 and in that same year, at Okakura’s urging, he took the position of principal at Kanazawa Prefectural Technical School (now Ishikawa Prefectural Industrial High School) over 250 miles from Tokyo. He would remain there for nearly ten years, returning to Tokyo in 1907. During his time he continued to submit works to Tokyo exhibitions, although being over 250 miles from the artistic center of Tokyo was isolating and may have caused a falling out with Okakura.

Upon his return to Tokyo he exhibited with the government sponsored Bunten, where he would win awards for his paintings, and went on to serve as a juror for the Teiten in 1924, the Bunten’ s successor. Much of Yamada's extant paintings are in the form of scrolls, ink on paper and ink on silk, and his subject matter encompasses Buddhist themes, landscapes and historical subjects, several examples of which are shown below. The University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts, has five of Yamada's paintings in their collection which can be accessed on the museum's web page by clicking this link.

Mount Fuji, date unknown

signed and sealed Keichū

ink on silk

Gyoran Kannon (the “fish basket bodhisattva”), date unknown, sealed Keichū

ink on silk

Landscape, Moonlit Night


date unknown, signed and sealed Keichū

ink on silk

Autmn Landscape After the Rain,

date unknown

signed Keichū hitsu

ink on silk

Among his students were his son Yamada Shingo 山田申吾 (1908-1977), his son-in-law Eizō Katō 加藤栄三 (1906-1972), Takahashi Keibi (Keimi) 高橋敬美 (1892-1978and Tamai Keisen 玉井敬泉 (1889-1960). Yamada passed away at the age of 67 in 1934.

Paintings for "The Gospel of Buddha"

Sources: A Storied Sage: Canon and Creation in the Making of a Japanese Buddha, Micah L. Auerback, University of Chicago Press, p. 207;  The Gospel of Buddha: According to Old Records, Paul Caras, Open Court, 2004, p. xi-xii.

Around the age of 30, Yamada undertook a large cannon of work creating over 35 paintings on the life of Buddha for possible reproduction in Paul Carus’s book The Gospel of Buddha, first published in 1894. While the paintings were not used in the original publication, at Paul Carus’s request, the Art Institute of Chicago exhibited thirty-three of Yamada’s paintings in September 1899 and in 2004, Carus's grandson, Blouke Carus, included twenty-seven of the paintings in the 8th edition of the book, six of which are shown below along with the titles shown in the book. 

The fascinating story of how these paintings were re-discovered in 2001 in La Salle, Illinois, appearing in the April 20, 2006 issue of The Chicago Reader, can be found as an attachment at the bottom of this page.

Brahma Worshiping the Buddha Child


Conquering the Dragon


The Wild Elephant

The Buddha's Farewell Address

Signatures and Seals of the Artist (a sampling)

Signatures appearing on prints 

應需 南斎年忠 / ?

ōju Nansai Toshitada / unread

南斎年忠 /  

Nansai Toshitada / Sai seal

應需 年忠画 / 年忠

ōju Toshitada ga / Toshidada


Nansai Toshitada

應需 年忠

ōju Toshitada

Signatures appearing on paintings 

敬中 / ?

Keichū / unread

敬中 / 敬中

Keichū / Keichū

敬中筆 / 敬中

Keichū hitsu / Keichū

敬中筆 / ?

Keichū hitsu / unread seals

敬中 / 可得

Keichū / Katoku 



Prints in Collection


click on thumbnail for print details