Home‎ > ‎Artists‎ > ‎

Yamada Toshitada (1868-1934)

Biographical Data
Sources: Japan wikipedia https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/山田年忠; List of Modern Japanese Print Artists (1900-1945) [近代日本版画家名覧(1900-1945)] http://www.hanga-do.com/img/Hangadomeiran126.pdf, p. 68; Independent Administrative Institution Nation Institutes for Cultural Heritage https://www.tobunken.go.jp/materials/gahou/109394.html; Woodblock Kuchi-e Prints: Reflections of Meiji Culture, Helen Merritt and Nanako Yamada, University of Hawaii Press, 2000, p. 111-112; A Dictionary of Japanese Artists: Painting, Sculpture, Ceramics, Prints, Lacquer, Laurance P. Roberts, Weatherhill, 1976, p. 195.
undated photo of artist
Yamada Toshitada 山田年忠 (1868-1934)
Whileinitially a student of the famous ukiyo-e print artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892), heis best known as a Japanese-style (nihonga) painter, using the artist name of Yamada Keichū 山田敬中. He created relatively few ukiyo-e designs during his career, most of his work being paintings.

In addition to the artist name (gō) Toshitada 年忠, bestowed on him byYoshitoshi, the signatures Nanshi Toshitada 南志年忠, Nansai Toshitada 南斎年忠 and Shimane Toshitada 島根年忠 appear on his ukiyo-e prints. Other gō associated with the artist are Katoku 可得 and Toshinaka 年中.

Born in Asakusa, Tokyo on April 2, 1868 his birth name was Shimane Chūzō 島根忠蔵. After graduating from Terabe Elementary School in 1881 he studied haiku and the Chinese classics until, at age of eighteen, he came under the tutelage of Yoshitoshi, mentor to several hundred artists over his career.   Yamada was not a prolific print artist if his 
extant prints shown on the web are an accurate gauge, but he created at least six triptychs from early 1887 into 1894, which are shown below.

Famous Places of Tokyo: Panoramic View of Azumabashi Bridge
Made of Iron, December 1887
東京名所 吾妻橋鉄橋之全圖
source: Edo-Tokyo Museum 87102101
Illustration of the Celebration of the Constitution,
February, 1887

source: Waseda University Library チ05_04120

Great Japan Imperial Constitution Promulgation Ceremony,
February 1887
source: Digital Collections of Keio University Libraries
Scenic View of Tokyo, Ueno Park Tōshō-gū Shrine,
February 1889

東京名所  上野公園地東照宮
source: The Lavenberg Collection of Japanese Prints

Cherry Blossom Viewing at the Sumida Bank, Mukojima,
April 1889
source: Edo-Tokyo Museum 87102101
Imperial Silver Wedding Anniversary, 1894

It is unknown exactly how long Yamada studied with Yoshitoshi and whether he was still in Yoshitoshi's studio when in 1889 he won a prize at the 
Japan Youth Painting Promotion Society Exhibition 日本美術協会青年絵画共進会 for his painting 年の市図 (Picture of the Year End Fair.)

In 1890 he worked for a short time as an illustrator for the Edo shinbun (The Edo Newspaper) and Edokai zasshi (Journal of the Edo Society) and in the late 1890s he designed a few kuchi-e  (book illustrations), using the gō Keichū, examples of which appears below. The few kuchi-e he designed, along with at least one surimono print in the collection of the British Museum and the woodblock prints shown above, may be the bulk of his print work.

Mother and daughter reading, 1897
appearing in Bungei kurabu dai 3-kan, dai 12-hen

Illustration titled 親類の格 from the novel
Tajō Takon (Passions and Regrets)
by Ozaki Kōyō, 1897

In 1891 he became a student of Kawabata Gyokushō (1848-1913), a Maruyama-Shijō school painter at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (Tokyo Bijutsu Gakkō). In that same year, he participated along with a number of other young artists in forming, under the leadership of Okakura Tenshin (1863-1913), the scholar and founder of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, the Japan Youth Painting Association (Nihon Seinen Kaiga Kyōkai). It is said that Okakura encouraged his career and Yamada was to go on to become a teacher at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts.  Yamada would also go on to teach at the Kawabata Art School, founded by Kawabata after he left the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. 

In 1896 Yamada joined the Japan Painting Association (Nihon Kaiga Kyōkai 日本絵画協会), formed by students of Okakaura, and in the following year was awarded a silver medal in their second competitive exhibition. It is reported that he took part in the founding of Okakura's Nihon Bijutsuin (Japan Art Institute) in 1898 and in that same year, at Okakura’s urging, he took the position of principal at Kanazawa Prefectural Technical School (now Ishikawa Prefectural Industrial High School) over 250 miles from Tokyo. He would remain there for nearly ten years, returning to Tokyo in 1907. During his time he continued to submit works to Tokyo exhibitions, although being over 250 miles from the artistic center of Tokyo was isolating and may have caused a falling out with Okakura.

Upon his return to Tokyo he exhibited with the government sponsored Bunten, where he would win awards for his paintings, and went on to serve as a juror for the Teiten in 1924, the Bunten’ s successor. Much of Yamada's extant paintings are in the form of scrolls, ink on paper and ink on silk, and his subject matter encompasses Buddhist themes, landscapes and historical subjects, several examples of which are shown below. The University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts, has five of Yamada's paintings in their collection which can be accessed on the museum's web page by clicking this link.  

Mount Fuji, date unknown
signed and sealed Keichū
ink on silk
Gyoran Kannon (the “fish basket bodhisattva”), date unknown, sealed Keichū
ink on silk
Landscape, Moonlit Night
date unknown, signed and sealed Keichū
ink on silk

Among his students were his son Yamada Shingo 山田申吾 (1908-1977), his son-in-law Eizō Katō 加藤栄三 (1906-1972), Takahashi Keibi (Keimi) 高橋敬美 (1892-1978and Tamai Keisen 玉井敬泉 (1889-1960). Yamada passed away at the age of 67 in 1934.

Paintings for "The Gospel of Buddha"
sources: A Storied Sage: Canon and Creation in the Making of a Japanese Buddha, Micah L. Auerback, University of Chicago Press, p. 207;  The Gospel of Buddha: According to Old Records, Paul Caras, Open Court, 2004, p. xi-xii.

Around the age of 30, Yamada undertook a large cannon of work creating over 35 paintings on the life of Buddha for possible reproduction in Paul Carus’s book The Gospel of Buddha, first published in 1894. While the paintings were not used in the original publication, at Paul Carus’s request, the Art Institute of Chicago exhibited thirty-three of Yamada’s paintings in September 1899 and in 2004, Carus's grandson, Blouke Caras, included twenty-seven of the paintings in the 8th edition of the book, six of which are shown below along with the titles shown in the book. 

The fascinating story of how these paintings were re-discovered in 2001 in La Salle, Illinois, appearing in the April 20, 2006 issue of The Chicago Reader, can be found as an attachment at the bottom of this page.

Brahma worshiping the Buddha child
Conquering the dragon

The Wild elephant
The Buddha's farewell address

Signature and Seals

Signatures appearing on prints
應需 南斎年忠 / ?
ōju Nansai Toshitada / unread
南斎年忠 / ?
Nansai Toshitada / unread
應需 年忠画 / 年忠
ōju Toshitada / Toshidada
Nansai Toshitada
應需 年忠
ōju Toshitada 

signatures appearing on paintings

敬中 / ?
Keichū / unread

敬中 / 敬中
Keichū / Keichū
筆 / 敬中
Keichū hitsu / Keichū

筆 / ?
Keichū hitsu / unread
中 / 可得
Keichū / Katoku 

last update:
1/21/2020 created
Irwin Lavenberg,
Jan 21, 2020, 3:15 PM