Imao Keinen (今尾景年) (artist 1845 – 1924)

Eikanshi (go - 永歓子)
Isaburō (original family name - 猪三郎)
Shiyū (go - 子裕)
Yōsōsai (go - 養素斎)
Imao Eikan (family name - 今尾永歓)
Ryōji Rakukyo (go - 聊自楽居)



Imao Keinen was born in Kyoto in 1845, the fifth son of Imao Inosuke.

He first studied ukiyo-e style with Umegawa Tōkyo, later he became a pupil of Suzuki Hyakunen, studying painting and calligraphy. He also studied other styles than those of his masters, which resulted in an eclectic style. He combined his part-time study and work in his father’s business with painting in the evenings. In 1868, after the family business was lost in the upheaval marking the end of the Tokugawa period, he began his own studio. At this time Nanga painting was at its summit, and many artists turned to Nanga, but Keinen remained true to his own style. At the same time he worked as a design advisor for a textile company, to make a living.

In1888 he became professor at the Kyoto Prefectural School of Painting. Keinen was a frequent exhibitor and prize-winner at many shows and exhibitions in Japan and in Paris and an important figure in Kyoto art circles. In 1904 he became a member of the Art Committee of the Imperial Household, and in 1907 a juror for the first Bunten. In 1919 he became a member of the Imperial Art Academy. In this period of his life he was probably the most famous painter of his time.

His recurring themes are flowers, birds and landscapes. He refrained from figure-painting.

He had many puplis, some of the best known are his son Imao Keishō (1902-1993), Konoshima Ōkoku (1877-1938), Ueda Banshū, Kobayashi Gokyō and Shiba Kaisen. He died in 1924.

Source: Saru Gallery.


According to the curatorial files at the Spencer Library at the University of Kansas Louise Norton Brown wrote in Book Illustration in Japan in 1924: "Kyōto on August 12th, 1845, the third son of Imao Senka. When eleven years old he commenced his artistic education and entered the studio of Umesawa in Tōkyo. Three years later he joined classes in painting and [calligraphy] under Suzuki Hyakunen and took up the study of Chinese classics with Yumin Sangoku. In 1871 he established a private art school in Kyōto, which became one of the famous Japanese studios. It is safe to say that two-thirds of the modern painters of Japan have been Keinen’s pupils…Like all great artists, Keinen never became a slave to any one school…Even Occidental art had its influence upon him and he made a large collection of European printed pictures. Gardening has been Keinen’s chief hobby, aside from his profession, however, and he is known among the old school garden makers as an expert cultivator of bonsai, or trained pot plants."


In 1898 William Strange wrote in the 'Transactions and Proceedings of the Japan Society, London': "I have little space, moreover, in which to deal adequately with the modern developments of Japanese art . We have heard much of decadence , of European imitations, of shoddy work produced for an eager, ignorant, and too easily flattered market . It is certain that there has been some foundation for these outcries; but not, I am sure, enough to justify them. A great change of character in art must inevitably follow so great a social revolution as that of 1868. What the precise form of this change may prove to be, it is yet too early to prophesy . In looking at the exquisite work of Watanabe Seitei, of Bairei, of Imao Keinen..."