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In the autumn of 2003, elections were held for the Liberal Democratic Party presidential election and the Lower House. Koizumi Jun’ichirō, who promised to end faction-based politics, was re-elected as the LDP president, and his ruling LDP coalition that questioned hereditary politics barely squeaked out an absolute majority in the Lower House election. Meanwhile, the rival Democratic Party of Japan dramatically increased its number of seats.

Amidst this political turmoil, an exhibition of works by Maruyama Ōkyo (1733-1795) was held at the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts. Active in late 18th century Kyoto, Maruyama Ōkyo was regarded as the founder of Kyoto painting coteries—which grew to be numerous—and he developed his own, realistic style. The Maruyama-Shijō school is considered to be the roots of the Kyoto Japanese art world that has blossomed to the present day.

In the Edo period, aspiring painters learned under acknowledged masters. These days it is generally the case that anyone wishing to become a painter enrolls in an art school or university to learn the principles of drawing and painting, and the various techniques associated with those media.

Graduates from the art institutes cannot expect to make a living right away by painting. Some independent painters may achieve recognition, but most painters usually continue by: (1) belonging to an organization, a painting school or group; (2) re-enrolling at a private art school; (3) studying under the tutelage of one’s father or grandfather, if they happen to be acclaimed painters. It is for those few artists who have been selected many times and have won awards at exhibitions in the course of their careers that can actually hope to achieve great success as Japanese-style painters.

The genealogy of the Maruyama-Shijō school (the data was created by Adobe Illustrator) shows the master-disciple relationships and connections to art schools and groups. This genealogy by no means covers all Japanese-style painters. Nevertheless, it demonstrates that—by one route or another—all painters in Kyoto are inter-related. The long and venerable traditions of Kyoto’s painting schools are woven into this net.

                                      Translation by Eiko Aoki