Dutch personnel and Japanese women watching an incoming towed Dutch sailing ship at Dejima by Kawahara Keiga

The Art Of Kawahara Keiga

Kawahara Keiga (also known as Taguchi Tanemi and Toyosuke) was born around 1786. His father was a painter named Kawahara Kozan, and it is known that he had a very close relationship with Ishizaki Yusi, a Chinese painter.

View of Dejima in Nagasaki Bay Folding Screen by Kawahara Keiga c
View of Dejima in Nagasaki Bay Folding Screen by Kawahara Keiga c

In around 1811 (Bunka 8), he became a “painter to and from Dejima” who could freely enter and leave Dejima in Nagasaki, and painted Japanese artifacts at the request of Bronnhoff, the chief of the Dejima trading post, Fissel, a trading post clerk, and Siebold, a trading post doctor.

px Naturalis Biodiversity Center RMNH.ART . Halieutaea stellata Kawahara Keiga Siebold Collection
px Naturalis Biodiversity Center RMNH.ART . Halieutaea stellata Kawahara Keiga Siebold Collection

Although Kawahara Keiga was an excellent painter who could paint anything requested by the trading post staff, Siebold desperately needed a painter who was familiar with Western painting methods in order to accurately draw specimen sketches for his botanical research.

Therefore, he requested Governor Vatavia to dispatch a painter. In response to this request, Bürger, a pharmacist, and de Fileneuve, who was not a professional painter but had a good artistic sense, came to Japan in 1825. Keiga received instruction in Western painting from de Fileneuve.

px Naturalis Biodiversity Center RMNH.ART . Carcinoplax longimana De Haan Kawahara Keiga
px Naturalis Biodiversity Center RMNH.ART . Carcinoplax longimana De Haan Kawahara Keiga

Siebold accompanied Keiga to Edo in 1826. Following Siebold’s requests and instructions, Keiga painted all kinds of scenes and objects, including street scenes, scenic spots, shrines and temples, scenes of Kyoto, Osaka and Edo, costumes of court nobles and samurai, animals and plants observed on the road, and customs.

In December 1829, Siebold was expelled from Japan after it was discovered that he had tried to take a prohibited map and hollyhock crested clothes out of the country. Keiga was also imprisoned in the “Siebold Affair”, and was punished with a “scolding”.

Kawahara keiga olandese con servo ca.
By Sailko – Own work, Public Domain

After that, he seems to have resumed his work as a painter of Dejima’s entry and exit, but in 1842 (Tempo 13), when he painted a scene of Nagasaki port, he even wrote the crests of the Hosokawa and Nabeshima families on the curtain of a guard ship, so he was ordered to leave Nagasaki.

However, four years later, in 1846, the Asuka clan in Nagasaki commissioned Ishizaki Yushi and his family to paint five of the 150 ceiling paintings at Wakimisaki Kannonji Temple in Nagasaki City to commemorate their ancestors.

Punica granatum ザクロ
Punica granatum ザクロ

The date of Keiga’s death and his burial place are unfortunately unknown.