Ongoku KITANI Chigusa

1918 | color on silk, six-fold screen | 166.6 x 342.0 cm


Commentary on work

Kitani Chigusa (Yoshioka Chigusa) was a prominent Japanese painter in Osaka, and along with Shima Seien and Ikuta Kacho, was one of the notable women active on the scene. Born and brought up in Osaka, she spent some years in the United States, Tokyo and Kyoto, but by preference painted the arts and customs of Osaka, her home town, such as Bunraku, a type of Ningyo-joruri (puppet ballad-drama) popular in Osaka. The title of this work, Ongoku, is taken from a song for the Urabon festival. Osaka children walk around their neighborhood in line, singing the song to welcome ancestral spirits back from the afterlife. The painting depicts old, familiar customs from Osaka summers. In July 1918, Chigusa lost her little brother to illness, and painted this work in mourning for him. The girl looking at the children through the lattice is considered to be Osome, the daughter of an oil merchant, who appears in the Bunraku “Shinpan Utazaimon“. Through the girl looking at the little boy who looks back at her, we find Chigusa’s sentiment recalling her deceased brother.

Brief biography of artist

KITANI (YOSHIOKA) Chigusa (1895–1947)

Born at Dojima in Osaka as Yoshioka Ei. At the age of 12, she went to the United States for two years, learning oil painting in Seattle. Then studying at the Osaka Prefectural Shimizudani Girls High School, she learned to paint flowers and birds from Fukada Chokujo. In 1913, she went to Tokyo to study under Ikeda Shoen. After returning to Osaka, she became a pupil of Kitano Tsunetomi and Noda Kyuho. In 1915, her work was selected for the first time for inclusion in the 1st Osaka Bijutsu Tenrankai (Osaka Fine Arts Exhibition) and the 9th Bunten (Ministry of Education Fine Arts Exhibition). In 1919, she started studying under Kikuchi Keigetsu in Kyoto. In 1920, Chigusa married Kitani Hogin, a researcher on Joruri. In the same year, she established a private painting school for women, Yachigusa-kai, in her house in Osaka. She showed her works at the exhibitions such as Teiten (Imperial Fine Arts Academy Exhibition), Kikuchijuku-ten and Yachigusakai-ten. She died in 1947 in the Minamikawachi district of Osaka Prefecture at the age of 51.

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