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Hou-mei Sung. The New Identity of Hoen Taira Yoshiteru

Hōen Taira Yoshiteru 芳園平吉輝 is a little-recognized Japanese painter of the 19th century. With no biographical information available, he is known only through a few signed works in museum and private collections. My research on Hōen Yoshiteru began in 2003, when Cincinnati Art Museum received a painting depicting the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu as a gift from the Dunlap family (Fig. 1). The painting bears the artist’s full signature, ‘Hōen Taira Yoshiteru’ 芳園平吉輝, and two seals, ‘seal of Hōen’ 芳園之印 and ‘Taira Yoshiteru (or Heijiki)’ 平吉輝 (Fig. 1a). Deeply impressed by the great skill of this little-known artist, I was inspired to learn more about him. While my initial search for biographical information was unrevealing, I was fortunate to discover a second painting of his, One Hundred Birds, in New York (Fig. 2). This painting has the same two seals as Amaterasu and the signature ‘painted by Hōen Ki’ 芳園輝寫 (Fig. 2a) but was attributed instead to Nishiyama Hōen 西山芳園 (1804–67). These two paintings, which clearly feature both the signature and seals of Hōen Yoshiteru, also display a very different painting and calligraphy style from that of Nishiyama Hōen (Figs 3 and 3a).

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November/December 2020
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