Mori Getsujo 1887-1961

That Getsujo remained prominent throughout the prewar period, with twenty-four appearances between 1909 and 1942 at the national Bunten and Teiten exhibitions, reflects the popularity of his teacher, Takeuchi Seiho (see pp. 130-37). As an early "inner disciple" (uchi deshi) of his famous mentor, Getsujo vacillated between a close reliance on Seiho's style and periods of greater independence. His Sideshow (Misemono, 1910), a dramatically composed close-up view of two tethered elephants, at first seems unlike Seiho's approach. Yet the presence of a Japanese macaque on a leash in the background recalls the screens Seiho had shown at the Bunten the previous year, in which the same primate appeared.1 Not only are the brush work, shading, and blank background similar, the relation of the themes suggests an earlier group outing to a circus grounds in search of unusual topics. This young artist from the Harima area of Hyogo Prefecture had earlier studied at the Kyoto City School of Arts (Kyoto-shi Bijutsu Gakko) with various teachers. If his work periodically relied on Seiho's influence, it also explored other themes and approaches in his several dozen exhibition works, ranging from the dramatic, long handscroll Climbing Mountains (Tozan) of 1916 to his several landscape scenes of Taiwan, displayed in 1937 and 1938. In the early 1920s some of his works reveal the influence of the Association for the Creation of National Painting (Kokuga Sosaku Kyokai), whose members included friends like Ono Chikkyo who were fellow students of Seiho. Returning to Hyogo Prefecture in 1925, Getsujo settled in the Suma district outside Kobe. He remained there for the rest of his life, working in a large atelier he had constructed. His landscape submissions to the Teiten received letters of commendation every year from 1929 through 1934, and thereafter his works were admitted without review, a controversial privilege granted senior artists in recognition of their achievements. In the postwar period Getsujo was one of the most prominent nihonga artists of the Kobe area and long served as the chairperson of the Hyogo Prefecture Association of Nihonga Painters (Hyogo-ken Nihongaka Kyokai). At one time he hosted yearly cherry-blossom viewing parties near his Suma studio at which he created an impromptu painting for each guest on a theme of his or her choice.2 Many of his simple works so closely resembled those of his noted teacher that he was sometimes called the "Seiho of Suma."3 This reputation, although not warranted considering the diversity of his many impressive exhibition pieces, may have caused his postwar popularity to slip, as only those Seiho students who successfully identified themselves with a distinct, individual style maintained a lasting following.

Paul Berry

Source: Michiyo Morioka and Paul Berry, The Transformation of Japanese Painting Traditions Nihonga from the Griffith and Paricia Way Collection Modern Masters of Kyoto, Seattle Art Museum, Washington, 1999 : 254-55.


1.Gelsujo's Sideshow is illustrated in Nittenshi Hensan linkai, Nitten shi 2 (Tokyo: Nitten. 1980), 415; Seiho’s earlier Raising Rabbits and Macaques appears on pp. 178-79 in the same volume.

2. See the memoirs of Getsujo’s nephew, who became the director of the Motomachi Garo in Kobe: Sato Ren, Gasho no me (Kobe: Kobe Shinbun Sogo Shuppan Senta Shinbunsha. 1996). 21-24.

3. Ibid.

Geri / Back