Although Osamu Dazai (1909-1948) is renowned as one of Japan’s greatest literary giants, he also had a keen interest in fine art and dabbled in painting himself.

One of his oil paintings and other items associated with the novelist are on display at the Mitaka City Gallery of Art in Mitaka, western Tokyo, where he spent his last years.

The special exhibition commemorating the 70th anniversary of Dazai’s death runs until July 16.

The nine items include an oil portrait of his acquaintance, which is on display for the first time outside the Kyushu region.

It is believed that Dazai always had an interest in fine art as he was influenced by his older brother, Keiji, who studied at the now-defunct Tokyo Fine Arts School, one of the predecessors of the Tokyo University of the Arts.

As an aspiring young writer, he socialized with Western-style painter Hamae Sakurai (1908-2007) and other artists. One of the artists Dazai had a close friendship with was Kunio Hisatomi (1912-2010), a Western-style painter from Saga Prefecture, who was a member of the fine arts group Issuikai.

Both Dazai and Hisatomi lived in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward at one time during the 1930s and were on visiting terms. Dazai is said to have visited Hisatomi at his home in 1936 or 1937 and drew an oil portrait of the artist on the spot.

The portrait had been kept by Hisatomi for a long time after he returned to Saga Prefecture. After the artist’s death, his bereaved family donated the painting to a museum run by Saga University in Saga in 2016. It was shown to the public once that year.

The portrait is on display for the first time since then, showcased along with eight other items including a collaborative work of art.