Watanabe Shōtei, Swallows on a Willow, a hanging scroll painting

Meiji era, late 19th-early 20th century AD

A Japanese artist who had travelled to the West

Watanabe Shōtei (1851-1918) was one of the first Nihonga artists to go to Europe. He travelled to France in 1878 for the International Exhibition, where he was awarded a bronze medal. Shōtei combined the realistic elements he found in Western art with the light colours and wash effects of the Maruyama-Shijō school, thereby creating a new kind of kachōga (bird-and-flower painting).

This work is done mainly in ink, with some use of light colours to depict the four birds and willow leaves,a not entirely characteristic style for Shōtei. However, the abbreviated brushwork and atmospheric description are more typical. The mass of the tree is effectively conveyed using the minimum number of strokes together with moist dark accents.

It was very difficult for Japanese artists to make a journey abroad in the early Meiji era (1868-1912), and it is not known how Shōtei managed to accomplish this. He had done designs for an export company back in 1875, and this connection may have provided him with the opportunity. His works proved popular in the West, and quite a number of works are preserved in both European and American collections.

Both the signature and seal read ‘Shōtei'.

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More information


I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan-2, vol. 3 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1993)


Height: 1180.000 mm
Width: 504.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JP 2295 (1913.5-1.0602)


Arthur Morrison Collection
Gift of Sir W. Gwynne-Evans, Bt.


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