Ogata Gekko (尾形月耕)

Welcome to our tribute to the remarkable Japanese artist, Ogata Gekko.

Ogata Gekko (Oct 10, 1859 – Oct 1, 1920) stands as a prominent figure in the history of Japanese art, particularly during the Meiji and Taisho eras. His contributions to the world of ukiyo-e, a traditional woodblock printing technique, and his versatility as an artist encompassing various styles make him a fascinating subject of study. Born Nakagami Masanosuke, Gekko later adopted the art name Gekko, meaning “moonlight,” which came to symbolize his ethereal and luminous artistic creations. This introduction delves into the life and artwork of Ogata Gekko, exploring his early years, artistic influences, notable works, and lasting legacy.

Gekko’s early life unfolded against the backdrop of Japan’s rapid modernization during the Meiji Restoration. Born in Edo (modern-day Tokyo), he witnessed the dynamic shift from the samurai era to a more open and industrialized society. Gekko’s exposure to these transformative times significantly influenced his artistic sensibilities, as he navigated the complexities of tradition and modernity in his work. This tension is palpable in his diverse portfolio, where traditional ukiyo-e themes seamlessly coexist with depictions of contemporary subjects.

Drawing inspiration from both Japanese and Western art, Gekko honed a distinctive style that set him apart from his contemporaries. His mastery of ukiyo-e, evident in the intricacy of his woodblock prints, reflects a deep appreciation for the traditional art form. Simultaneously, Gekko experimented with new techniques and subjects, incorporating elements from Western realism and impressionism into his oeuvre. This fusion of influences contributed to the richness and uniqueness of his artistic expression.

Portrait of Ogata Gekko, National Diet Library collection