kara-e mekiki 唐絵目利
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Lit. inspector mekiki 目利 of Chinese painting. The post of official art appraiser for the Tokugawa 徳川 shogunate stationed in Nagasaki 長崎 during the late Edo period. Duties included the examining, cataloguing and copying of imported (Chinese and Dutch) paintings and other commodities for government records. The post was officially established in 1697 and continued until 1870 when it was abolished. The men chosen to serve in this capacity were originally government appointees but the position soon became a hereditary occupation. Four families supplied the kara-e mekiki for generations: the Watanabe 渡辺, the Hirowatari 広渡, the Ishizaki 石崎, and the Araki 荒木. As official painters, they were sanctioned by government patronage and developed a distinctive, conservative style to which they became bound. Their works were eclectic, combining elements of traditional Japanese painting, Ming decorative realism and aspects of Western illusionism. The Watanabe and Hirowatari artists painted in a manner conforming more closely to Chinese idioms called *kanga 漢画. The Watanabes, in particular, specialized in portraits and bird-and-flower painting. The first Hirowatari painters were influenced by the Kanou schools *Kanouha 狩野派, and only occasionally painted subjects such as Dejima 出島 (the island in Nagasaki to which Westerners were confined), making no effort to assimilate Western techniques. However, the Hirowatari family contributed to the emergence of an official Nagasaki style. The Ishizaki and Araki families were more open to Western influence. Ishizaki Yuushi 石崎融思 (1768-1846) was the most popular and prosperous of all Nagasaki artists and the foremost exponent and disseminator of the Nagasaki "official style." His oeuvre is versatile, including scientific illustration, *ukiyo-e 浮世絵 sketches and *bunjinga 文人画 landscapes. Yuushi's studio in Nagasaki attracted over 700 followers and many noted Nagasaki painters of the mid-19c were trained there. Among the literati artists who studied with Yuushi were Kinoshita Itsuun 木下逸雲 (1799-1866), Miura Gomon 三浦梧門 (1809-60) and Hidaka Tetsuou 日高鉄翁 (1791-1871).  

*Nagasakiha 長崎派

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