Style: Japanese, Western, Impressionist
Background: Asai Chū was born in Sakura, Japan. He was a Japanese painter, noted for his pioneering work in developing the yoga (Western-style) art movement in late 19th century and early twentieth-century Japanese painting.
Education: He attended the domain school, where his father was principal, and left home in 1873 to pursue English language studies in Tokyo. However, he became interested in the arts, and enrolled as a pupil of Kunisawa Shinkuro in western oil painting classes. In 1876, he enrolled as one of the first students in the Kobubijutsu Gakkō (the Technical Fine Arts School), where he was able to study under the Italian foreign advisor Antonio Fontanesi, who had been hired by the Meiji government in the late 1870s to introduce western oil painting to Japan.
Achievements: In 1889, he established the Meiji Bijutsukai (Meiji Art Society), the first group of Western-style painters in Japan, and in 1898, he became a professor of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (present day Tokyo University of the Arts. However, in 1902 he resigned his post and travelled to France, where he spent the next two years refining his techniques in the impressionist school.
On his return to Japan, Asai obtained a position as professor at the Kyoto Kōtō Kōgei Gakkō (present day Kyoto School of Arts and Crafts of the Kyoto Institute of Technology), and founded the Kansai Bijutsu-in (the Kansai Arts Institute).
Asai taught numerous students who later became famous in the Japanese art world, including Sotaro Yasui and Ryuzaburo Umehara. He also tutored the noted poet Masaoka Shiki in the techniques of western art, and was the model for a character in Natsume Soseki’s novel Sanshirō.