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COLLECTION HIGHLIGHTS

AOKI Shigeru

Kurume,Fukuoka,1882-Fukuoka,1911

Aoki was born in Shojima-machi, Kurume, in Fukuoka. In 1899, intending to become an artist, he left Fukuoka Prefectural Meizen Middle School in Kurume to go to Tokyo and enter Koyama Shotaro’s Fudosha painting school. In 1900, he was admitted to the Western Painting Faculty of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. In 1903, he showed his Yomotsuhirasaka and other paintings on mythological themes at the eighth Hakubakai Exhibition, winning the Hakuba Award. In 1904, after graduating in July from the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, Aoki went with Sakamoto Hanjiro, Morita Tsunetomo, and Fukuda Tane to Mera, a fishing port in Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture. During his stay there, which continued until the end of August, he produced A Gift of the Sea and other superb paintings on maritime themes. He showed A Gift of the Sea at the ninth Hakubakai Exhibition that fall, garnering further attention in the art world. However, his Paradise under the Sea, which he submitted with great confidence to the Tokyo Industrial Exhibition in 1907, received only the third prize, to his great disappointment. That August, at the death of his father in Kurume, he returned to his old home. His dream of returning to the center of the art world never realized, he roamed throughout Kyushu before his death from tuberculosis. Aoki’s career, brief as it was, placed him at the pinnacle of Meiji romanticism in painting.
AOKI Shigeru A Gift of the Sea 1904, Oil on canvas Important Cultural Property
AOKI Shigeru
A Gift of the Sea
1904, Oil on canvas
Important Cultural Property

A group of fishermen are advancing to the left across the picture plane. They are carrying harpoons, and some are carrying large fish, apparently sharks. One is hoisted over a fisherman’s shoulder; others hang from the fishermen’s harpoons. Aoki painted this piece in the summer of 1904, when, having just graduated from the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, he went to the Mera coastline at Tateyama, on Chiba’s Boso Peninsula, with his friends Sakamoto Hanjiro and Morita Tsunetomo and his lover Fukuda Tane. He showed it that fall in the ninth Hakubakai exhibition. It appears that Aoki retouched the white faces of the two figures in the center of the canvas. The one facing towards the viewer seems to have an image of Fukuda Tane superimposed on it. This painting was one of the first Western-style paintings in Japan to be designated an important cultural property, in 1967.
Japanese Western-style painting