Art, Artists, Painters, Who was/is

Who was Uemura Shoen?

Uemura Shoen was the pseudonym of Uemura Tsune, an important artist in Meiji, Taisho and early Showa period Japanese painting. To those who are not familiar with the history of Japan, the Meiji period starts at late 19th century and the Taisho and Showa cover almost all 20th century.

Daughter Miyuki by Uemura Shoen – 1914
(Photo credit:Wikiart)

Primarily she was known for her bijn-ga paintings of beautiful women in the nihonga style (are Japanese paintings from about 1900 onwards made in accordance with the traditional Japanese artistic conventions, techniques and materials, during the Meiji period this term was used to distinguish such works from Western-style paintings. However, she produced numerous works on historical themes and traditional subjects.

Uemura Shoen is considered a major innovator in the bijn-ga (this term referrers to pictures of beautiful women in Japanese art especially in woodblock printing) despite the fact she often used it to depict the traditional beauty standards of women. Bijn-ga gained criticism during the Taisho period, by this time Uemura’s works tried to reflect the more modern statuses of women in Japan.

Mother and Child by Uemura Shoen – 1934

And during the conception of bijn-ga, the women were regarded as lower-class citizens and the genre very often reflected this implication onto the female subjects. In the Taisho period, women made several advancements into the work force of Japan, and artistry was becoming popular outside of the elite, which helped Uemura Shoen’s success.

She received many awards and forms of recognition within Japan, as she was the first female to receive the Order of Culture Award, she was also hired as the Imperial Household’s official artist, which had previously employed one woman in the same position.

She died in 1949 of a cancer.


  • During the World War II she supported nationalism in pieces as Late Autumn (1943) which depicts a beautiful woman doing her part to help the war.
  • Her works of 1930’s shows a skilful use of the negative space, with realistic detail, neat lines and a calm use of colours.
  • Uemura Shoen herself and some of her works have been selected as the subject of commemorative postage stamps by the Japanese government.
Late Autumn by Uemura Shoen – 1943
(Photo credit: Pinterest)