Reader Collection > Exhibitions > Kachō Gafu flower-bird picture albums from Meiji Era (1868-1912) Japan














Flowers and birds are popular subjects for artists worldwide. In Japan this genre of art is called kachōga which means flower (ka) bird (chō) picture (ga). These pictures may be sold either individually or as a collection in book-form. One Japanese name for the latter is gafu (i.e., picture album). It was especially popular with artists and their patrons during the Meiji Era (1868-1912). More than sixty kachō gafu were published then which is almost three-quarters of all Japanese kachōga albums.

This outpouring was likely stimulated by a dramatic cultural change that took place during the Meiji Era. During this period Japan made a rapid change from a feudal society to a modern nation. This transition was orchestrated by government leaders who feared that a powerful western country in Europe or North America would invade Japan and turn it into another of their colonies if Japan did not become as modern and powerful as these western countries. The program of modernization affected every aspect of Japanese life, even art. Western-style art materials and methods were promoted instead of their traditional far-eastern counterparts. Response to this call for westernization (i.e., modernization) was mixed. While there was a willingness to experiment with western ways there was also a reluctance to give up traditional far-eastern art. The Japanese continued to value accomplishments of past generations of their artists whose work often received renewed attention whenever a new art style was introduced. The new market for western-style art combined with revived interest in older styles of far-eastern art was likely the reason why so many kachōga albums were published during the Meiji Era.

Fifty-five of these Meiji Era kachōga albums are profiled in this virtual exhibition by including an example from each. These albums are part of the Reader Collection of Japanese Art. The following information is given for each example: album title, publication date, author (artist, editor or publisher), names of flowers and birds, number of pictures in the album and their artistic style (i.e., Kanō, Ukiyo-e, Nagasaki, Nanga, Maruyama-Shijō or Nihonga). The characteristic features of each of these artistic styles are explained in two other exhibitions, entitled Painting Styles Illustrated in 18th and 19th Century Japanese Books and Japanese Ukiyo-style Bird Prints.

The fifty-five albums are grouped and presented by artistic style as follows: Kanō – albums 1 to 6, Ukiyo-e – albums 7 to 17, Nagasaki – albums 18 and 19, Nanga – albums 20 to 29, Maruyama-Shijō – albums 30 to 35, Nihonga – albums 36 to 55.










1   Tsunenobu Kachō Gafu (Picture Album of Flowers and Birds by Tsunenobu), 1894, edited by Gessai Fukui, copies of twelve paintings by Tsunenobu Kanō (1636-1713), Kanō style, left picture - Japanese kerria (Kerria japonica) and green peafowl (Pavo muticus), right picture – common hill myna (Gracula religiosa) and yellow bunting (Emberiza sulphurata)











2   Kanō Tsunenobu Kachō Gafu Kōhen (Picture Album of Flowers and Birds by Tsunenobu Kanō Sequel), 1895, edited by Gessai Fukui, copies of twelve paintings by  Tsunenobu Kanō (1636-1713), Kanō style, left picture – lespedeza (Lespedeza sp.) and Japanese quail (Coturnix japonica), right picture – Indian-shot (Canna indica) and Eurasian jay (Garrulus glandarius)












3   Kanō Tsunenobu Kachō Gafu Zokuhen (Picture Album of Flowers and Birds by Tsunenobu Kanō Sequel), 1895, edited by Gessai Fukui, copies of twelve paintings by  Tsunenobu Kanō (1636-1713), Kanō style, left picture – Chinese arrowhead (Sagittaria trifolia) and mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos), right picture –cotton-rose (Hibiscus mutabilis), common reed (Phragmites australis) and Daurian redstart (Phoenicurus auroreus)












4   Kachō Gafu (Picture Album of Flowers and Birds), undated, published by Hanzō Matsuzaki and Kaishien Gafu, Kokuga (Mustard Seed Garden Picture Album, Chinese Art), 1881, edited by Katsuzō Harada, copies of twenty-six pictures originally published in Ehon Eibutsu Sen (Picture Book of Selected Subjects), 1779, drawn by Yasukuni Tachibana, Kanō style, princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa) and mythical hō-ō bird












5   Shoshoku Hikkei Kachō Gafu (Picture Album of Flowers and Birds a Manual for Artisans), 1890, twenty-five pictures drawn by Itsujirō Miwa, Kanō style, Japanese kadsura (Kadsura Japonica), eulalia grass (Miscanthus sinensis) and scops owl (Otus sp.)












6   Kachō Gafu (Picture Album of Flowers and Birds), 1879, twenty-eight pictures drawn by Osui Asai, reprinted in 1886 by Shinkichi Ōkawa, Kanō style, Hall crabapple (Malus halliana) and golden pheasant (Chrysolophus pictus)












7   Myōgi Kachō Gafu (Picture Album of Flowers and Birds of Outstanding Skill), 1890, twenty pictures published by Katsugorō Inoue, Ukiyo style, left picture – morning-star lily (Lilium concolor), fringed pink (Dianthus superbus) and red avadavat (Amandava amandava), right picture – weeping forsythia (Forsythia suspensa) and Eurasian bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)












8   Senryūdō Gafu Kachō no Bu (Picture Album by Senryūdō Flower and Bird Part), 1879, thirty-five pictures drawn by Kiyoshi Takizawa, Ukiyo style, tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa), chrysantheum (Chrysanthemum sp.) and Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus)












9   Jinbutsu Kachō Sōmoku Shūchin Gafu (Pocket-size Picture Album of a Rare Collection of Flowers, Birds and Plants by a Talented Man), 1883, sixty-eight pictures drawn by Kiyoshi Takizawa, Ukiyo style, common reed (Phragmites australis), bulrush (Scirpus sp.), little egret (Egretta garzetta), little ringed plover (Charadrius dubius), white-fronted goose (Anser albifrons) and mandarin duck (Aix galericulata)












10   Sōmoku Kachō Gafu (Picture Album of Plants, Flowers and Birds), 1881, fifteen pictures drawn by Rinsai Shiba, Ukiyo style, common garden peony (Paeonia lactiflora) and green pheasant (Pavo muticus)












11   Kachō Gafu (Picture Album of Flowers and Birds), undated, forty pictures drawn by Rōsai, Ukiyo style, left picture – florist’s chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum grandiflorum) and great tit (Parus major), right picture – camellia (Camellia japonica), scabrous gentian (Gentiana scabra) and brown-headed thrush (Turdus chrysolaus)












12   Kachō Sōmoku Saishiki Gafu (Dainty Picture Album of Flowers, Birds and Plants), 1891, twenty-two pictures drawn by Satarō Nagao, Ukiyo style, left picture – Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) and varied tit (Sittiparus varius), right picture – tree peony (Paeonia suffruticosa) and Java sparrow (Padda oryzivora)












13   Shinsen Kachō Gafu (Picture Album of Newly Selected Flowers and Birds), 1897, fourteen pictures drawn by Shōgetsu Sakai, Ukiyo style, loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) and willow tit (Poecile montanus)












14   Kōshōdō Gafu Kusahana no Bu (Picture Album by Kōshōdō Flowering Plant Part), 1891, thirty-one pictures drawn by Shūken Handa, Ukiyo style, clematis (Clematis patens), plantain lily (Hosta sp.) and narcissus flycatcher (Ficedula narcissina)












15   Bijutsu Kōgei Kachō Gafu (Arts and Crafts Picture Album of Flowers and Birds), 1895, eighty-two pictures drawn by Tokuyama Yamano, Ukiyo style, left picture –  azalea (Rhododendron sp.) and green pheasant (Phasianus versicolor), middle picture – camellia (Camellia japonica) and parakeet (Psittacula sp.), right picture – princess tree (Paulownia tomentosa), mythical hō-ō bird, little egret (Egretta garzetta) and barn swallow (Hirundo rustica)












16   Kachō Gafu (Picture Album of Flowers and Birds), 1907, thirty-six pictures drawn by Yoshimori Ikkōsai, Ukiyo style, left picture –  red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis), right picture – cherry (Prunus sp.)












17   Kachō Gafu (Picture Album of Flowers and Birds), undated, forty-nine pictures drawn by Yoshiharu Utagawa, Ukiyo style, left top picture – clematis (Clematis patens) and lesser cuckoo (Cuculus poliocephalus), left bottom picture – common garden peony (Paeonia lactiflora) and common snipe (Gallinago gallinago), middle picture – oleander (Nerium indicum) and long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus), right top picture – Japanese morning glory (Ipomoea nil) and blue-and-white flycatcher (Cyanoptila cyanomelana), right bottom picture – grape (Vitis vinifera)












18    Chikutō Kachō Gafu (Picture Album of Flowers and Birds by Chikutō), undated, published by Unsōdō, copies of  twenty of the twenty-one pictures included in Yūsai Gafu, 1846, drawn by Chikutō Nakabayashi, Nagasaki style, plum (Prunus mume), bunchflower daffodil (Narcissus tazetta) and mandarin duck (Aix galericulata)












19   Kachō Gafu (Picture Album of Flowers and Birds), 1888, ten pictures drawn by Katei Taki, Nagasaki style, peach (Prunus persica) and barn swallow (Hirundo rustica)












20   Nanga Kachō Gafu (Picture Album of Nanga-style Flowers and Birds), undated, published by Shōzandō Shoten, copies of twenty-six pictures included in Gentai Sensei Gafu (Picture Album by Master Gentai), 1805, drawn by Gentai Watanabe, Nanga style, apricot (Prunus armeniaca) and barn swallow (Hirundo rustica)












21   Chinzan Gafu (Picture Album by Chinzan), 1880, thirty-six pictures drawn by Chinzan Tsubaki, Nanga style, sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) and common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)












22   Chinzan Gafu Kōshū (Picture Album by Chinzan Later Compilation), 1880, twenty-nine pictures drawn by Chinzan Tsubaki, Nanga style, magpie (Urocissa sp.)












23   Bijutsu Gafu (Picture Album of Fine Arts), 1892, published by Katsugorō Inoue, twenty-nine pictures, Nanga style, left picture – common garden peony (Paeonia lactiflora), right picture – florist’s chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum grandiflorum)












24   Kazan Gafu (Picture Album by Kazan), 1907, twenty-four pictures drawn by Kazan Watanabe, Nanga style, sweet osmanthus (Osmanthus fragrans) and Eurasian bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)












25    Bunrin Gafu (Multiple Designs Picture Album), 1883, edited by Motoyasu Sano, seventy-six pictures, Nanga style, dandelion (Taraxacum sp.) and green pheasant (Phasianus versicolor)












26    Takukadō Gafu (Picture Album by Takukadō), 1880, forty pictures drawn by Chinzan Tsubaki, Nanga style, magnolia (Magnolia sp.) and unknown bird












27   Kachō Gafu (Picture Album of Flowers and Birds), 1882, thirty-six pictures drawn by Ryūsai Ninjō, Nanga style, left picture – little egret (Egretta garzetta), right picture – plum (Prunus mume) and black bulbul (Hypsipetes leucocephalus)












28   Kachō Gafu (Picture Album of Flowers and Birds), 1882, twenty-one pictures drawn by Unga Tachibana, Nanga style, cotton-rose (Hibiscus mutabilis) and domestic goose (Anser cygnoides)












29   Unzan Gafu (Picture Album by Unzan), 1880, forty pictures drawn by Unzan Yamazaki, Nanga style, camellia (Camellia japonica) and Java sparrow (Padda oryzivora)







Kachō Gafu:   albums 1-29   albums 30-55   or   Back to Exhibitions