Itchiku Kubota

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Itchiku Kubota (久保田 一竹, Kubota Itchiku)(1917–2003) was a Japanese textile artist. He was most famous for reviving and in part reinventing an otherwise lost late-15th- to early-16th-century textile dye technique known as tsujigahana (lit., flowers at the crossroads), which became the main focus for much of his life's work.


At the age of 14, Kubota left school to become the apprentice of Kobayashi Kiyoshi, a Tokyo-based kimono artist who specialized in hand-painted yūzen dyework (a paste-resist-dyeing technique). Kubota also studied other techniques for decorating fabrics, as well as Japanese-style landscape painting and portraiture.

Kubota first saw a fragment of fabric dyed in the tsujigahana style at the age of 20 in the Tokyo National Museum, and decided to devote his life to recreating it. Because no instructions survive that explain how to reproduce the complex decorative techniques seen in tsujigahana, and because the silk fabric necessary for its successful production (known as nerinuki) is no longer woven, Kubota was forced to experiment by himself for decades.

In 1962, Kubota decided that there were too many technical problems surrounding his mission to recreate traditional tsujigahana, instead deciding to develop his own technique, known as "Itchiku Tsujigahana" using a modern smooth crepe fabric (known as chirimen) for nerinuki and synthetic dyestuffs for natural ones.

In 1977, when Kubota was 60 years old, he displayed his decorated kimono for the first time in an exhibition in Tokyo.

Kubota's grand scheme was a series of kimono, called the Symphony of Light, that would depict the "grandeur of the universe"; Kubota's vision for the series involved a decorative landscape design that flowed from kimono to kimono, resulting in a panorama of seasons and views.

In 1995, an exhibit presenting part of the series was shown for 6 months at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. - the first time the Smithsonian had presented an exhibit of a living artist. At the time of his death, Kubota had completed 40 of his projected 80 kimono in the series. Kubota's son and daughter continue their father's work at their studio, Itchiku Kobo, in Tokyo.


Kubota's work can be seen year-round at the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum in Kawaguchi-ko, Yamanashi, Japan.

2008-2009: The San Diego Museum of Art presented a rare American exhibition of Kubota's kimono in Kimono as Art: The Landscapes of Itchiku Kubota, from November 1, 2008-January 4, 2009. The exhibition travelled to the Canton Museum of Art in Canton, Ohio (February 8-April 26, 2009).

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