Kawahara Keiga

Kawahara Keiga
Kawahara Keiga (Taguchi Takumi or Toyosuke) was born in 1786. His father, Kawahara Kozan is thought to have had a considerably close relationship with Ishizaki Yuushi, who was a kara-e mekiki, or an official art inspector of Chinese imports. Around 1811, Kawahara Keiga was appointed as a painter for Dejima Factory, an artist who is allowed access to Dejima, where he depicted things Japanese in response to requests from Blomhoff (director of the Dutch East India Company Dejima Factory), Fisscher (a Dutch East Indian Company employee), and Siebold (a physician at the Dutch East India Company Dejima Factory).

Although Keiga was an excellent painter who could draw anything required by the Dutch residents of Dejima, Siebold absolutely needed artists with a mastery of Western painting techniques, to draw precise sketches of specimens to pursue his botanical studies. As such, Siebold required the governor-general at Batavia to dispatch such painters. Responding to his request, in 1825 two persons were sent to Japan: one was Heinrich Burger, a pharmacist, and the other was de Villeneuve, who was not an expert painter but had an aptitude for painting. Keiga was then taught the basics of Western painting techniques by de Villeneuve.

When making the court journey to Edo in 1826, Siebold took Keiga with him. In compliance with Siebold's requests and instructions, Keiga drew a variety of objects, including street scenes, scenic spots, shrines and temples, circumstances of Kyoto, Osaka and Edo, court noble and samurai attire, and plants and animals as well as folk they observed on their journey to Edo. During his stay in Edo, Siebold deepened friendships with Mogami Tokunai and Takahashi Kageyasu, whose kindness subsequently led to the so-called Siebold Incident: In 1829, Siebold was expelled from Japan, since it was revealed that he attempted to take out of the country detailed maps of Japan, a kimono with the hollyhock crest of the Tokugawa family and other banned items. It was an act strictly forbidden by the Tokugawa shogunate. Owing to the engagement in the Siebold Incident, Keiga was also put in prison and reprimanded. After his punishment, he is thought to have resumed his work as a painter for Dejima Factory. However, in 1842, when Keiga painted a landscape of Nagasaki Port, he depicted the crests of the Hosokawa and Nabeshima families on the patrol vessel screens. He was punished yet again and dismissed from Nagasaki.

Nevertheless, we can find Keiga's signature and seal on five of 150 ceiling paintings in Nagasaki, drawn by Ishizaki Yushi and his pupils in 1846, i.e., four years after Keiga's dismissal. These paintings were drawn on the ceilings of Wakimisaki Kannon Temple, Nagasaki City, at request of Asuka clan and other clients in Nagasaki for the repose of their ancestors. This implies the close relationship between Yushi and Keiga. Since the portrait of Madame Kiku Nagashima, painted in 1860, has a record indicating that it was Keiga's work at the age of 75, we can presume the year of his birth. Unfortunately, however, the year of his death and the location of his grave are unknown.

He left almost 100 paintings in Japan and 1,000 in Holland.