Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

Kuroda Seiki: Why a Google Doodle is celebrating the influential painter and teacher today

Kuroda is credited with bringing western art theory to Japan, where he has come to be known as ‘the father of Western-style painting’.

Tuesday’s Google Doodle celebrates what would have been the 156th birthday of Japanese artist and teacher Seiki Kuroda.

Kuroda is credited with bringing Western art theory to Japan, where he has come to be known as “the father of Western-style painting”.

He was very influential during the late 19th and early 20th century, and is still remembered among Japan’s greatest artists today.

Here is everything you need to know about him.

Who was Seiki Kuroda?

Kuroda was born on 9 August 1866 in Takamibaba, Satsuma Domain, which is present day Kagoshima Prefecture.

He was the son of a samurai of the Shimazu clan, but was adopted as his uncle’s heir at birth and moved to his estate in Tokyo. His uncle, Kuroda Kiyotsuna, served in high positions in the imperial government. He was named a viscount while Kuroda was young.

Kuroda travelled to Paris to study law when he was 18 but in 1886 he met the painters Yamamoto Hosui and Fuji Masazo, as well as art dealer Tadamasa Hayashi, and they convinced him to pursue painting – which had previously only been a hobby – full time.

Kuroda spent a decade in France learning how to paint in the Western academic-style, before returning to Japan in 1893.

He brought with him a painting called “Morning Toilette”, which went on to become the first nude painting to be publicly exhibited in Japan. It was sadly destroyed during the Second World War.

Kuroda started a Western painting school called Tenshin Dojo and established plein-airism – the practice of painting outdoors.

In 1986, he founded the Hakuba-kai – also known as the White Horse Society – a group of Japanese practitioners of yoga and painting. He was also invited to teach the Western Painting Department at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts.

Kuroda’s Western painting style was quite shocking to Japanese audiences but also became very popular, particularly among younger people, who were keen to be taught by him.

He refined his style and teaching over the years, mixing in more Japanese sensibilities.

In 1910 he was appointed a court painter at the Imperial Court. He also served as the President of the Imperial Art Academy and was made a viscount in 1917 after the death of his uncle.

Then, in 1920, Kuroda was elected to join Japan’s house of peers, or Kizoku-in, the new aristocratic social class during the Meiji Era.

His later years were spent more in politics until his death on 15 July 1924, at the age of 57.

What is his legacy?

Kuroda was given the Order of the Rising Sun by the Japanese government immediately after his death.

His work and teaching inspired the next generation of Western-style painters in Japan, and his influence is still seen worldwide today.

The “academic impressionism” style that Kuroda put forward achieved a long-lasting predominance within Japanese art society, and formed the foundation of Western-style art training in Japan for decades.

Perhaps Kuroda’s greatest contribution to Japanese culture, however, was the broader acceptance of Western-style painting he managed to instil in the Japanese public.

Kuroda’s most famous works include “Lakeside” (1897), “Maiko” (1893), “Woman Holding a Mandolin” (1891) and “The Fields” (1907).

“Maiko” and “Lakeside” have both been turned into commemorative stamps in Japan.

His works can be found in countless museums and galleries such as the Artizon Museum in Tokyo and the Kuroda Memorial Hall within the Tokyo National Museum.

By Chala Dandessa

I am Lecturer, Researcher and Freelancer. I am the founder and Editor at ETHIOPIANS TODAY website. If you have any comment use as email contact. Additionally you can contact us through the contact page of

Leave a Reply