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Okuhara Seiko
(1837 - 1913) Japan

Okuhara Seiko

Poet, painter


Born in Koga, now in Ibaraki Prefecture, Okuhara Seiko was the daughter of a high-ranking samurai, a highly respected Nanga painter, poet and teacher (at one point with nearly 300 students), who lived and worked in Edo (now called Tokyo) in late 19th century Japan.

She had a diverse, well-rounded education and was often invited to scholarly gatherings. Biographies mention her unusual independence, masculine clothing, and cropped hair, and her interest in the martial arts, and it is assumed that she was a lesbian. Her home became a favorite meeting place for outstanding artists of her day.

Seiko's art was highly valued and sought after and she was able to make a lucrative living. She loved fine food, becoming quite portly in her later years, and was known as an energetic conversationalist, with a quick wit, and gregarious personality.

However, despite her success in Edo, it was not until after Seiko retired in 1891 and went to live in the country village of Kamikawakami that she was able to undertake her finest work. Happily her patrons continued to support and encourage her and kept up a demand for her paintings.

At last, in 1912 when her health began to fail, she hung a plaque on her gate saying she would no longer take commissions. She died a year later at the age of seventy-seven.


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