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Okuhara Seiko (1837-1913)
Cranes under a banana tree
Signed: Seiko shai ..
Seals: Shuseki seiuni kataigetsu
Technique: sumi and red on paper 118,5 x 54,5
Mounting: green damask
190 x 65,7
Condition: stain, aged, otherwise good

Okuhara Seiko was an independent unconventional female artist, one of the two leading female artists of the Meiji period.

She was the fourth daughter of a high-ranking samurai family in Koga, Ibaraki prefecture. Next to her masculine training in martial arts, she received a proper female education and received lessons from the Chinese style poet Onuma Chinzan (1818-91), Hirata Suiseki (1796-1863), who was a follower of Tani Bunchô, the calligrapher Oyama Kagai (1785-1864) and the rangaku (Western learning) scholar Takami Senseki (1785-1858).

Her desire to pursue a painting career in Edo ran contrary to clan laws restricting women's travel. Through her adoption by the Okuhara family she overcame this obstacle and moved to Edo in 1865.
Seiko quickly established herself at the foreground of Tokyo art and literary circles, and she even managed to get an invitation for an audience with the empress in 1872, the first female artist ever to receive such an honour.
During the 1870s and 1880s Seiko’s career flourished. It is said she trained hundreds of pupils at her school in Shitaya. Highly appraised colleagues like Yasuda Rôzan (1830-82) and Hakuryû paid her visits to exchange ideas.

After her studio had to move in favour of a railway, and when taste moved to western aesthetics, she retired at Kumagaya in 1891. During the two following decades after her retirement she traveled extensively.

Koga 1998
Mito 2001
Fister ‘88 p. 161 ff.
Berry & Morioka ’08 p. 291-92
Jordan & Weston p. 116 ff.
Roberts, p. 125
Araki p. 2073