Michisei Kohno, “Self Portrait”, 1917, Oil on Canvas, Arthur M Sackler Gallery
Born in 1905 in Isezaki in the Gunma Prefacture of Japan, Michisei Kohno was a Japanese painter, illustrator, and printmaker known for his association with the yōga movement of the early century. His artwork is representative of the Taishō period, from 1912 to 1925, in Japanese art when Emperor TaishOō reigned. This era is considered the time of the liberal ‘democracy’ movement.
In his early youth, Michisei fell under the influence of painter Kishida Ryūsei, known for his realistic yoga-position portraits, and joined his art circle Sõdosha in 1915.. Upon Kishida’s death in 1929, Michisei turned to illustration producing work for novels and a variety of newspapers. In 1931 he became a member of Nihon Hanga Kyokai, the Japanese Woodblock Print Society, and also returned to painting, although sporadically, between 1933 and 1937.
The greatest influence upon Michisei’s work was the prints of Albrecht Dürer, gained primarily form books and magazines. The works of Michelangelo, as well as the Christian faith, also provided inspiration. In his work, Michisei reularly touched upon Christian themes, blending them with unorthodox elements, such as Adam and Eve crossing a river in Japan. He also produced many self-portraits throughout his career.
Michisei Kohno died in 1950 in Koganei in the Tokyo Prefecture of Japan. His artwork was soon forgotten until a 2008 retrospective at the Hiratsuka Museum of Art in Tokyo. Two of his paintings, a portrait of his son Shuntatsu and the self-portrait shown above, are in the Sackler Gallery in Washington DC. His works can be seen in several museums in Japan, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Hiratsuka Museum, both in Tokyo.
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