Photo/IllutrationKaita Murayama’s “Shinshu Fukei” discovered after 100 years is remarkably well preserved, and the black charcoal colors remain vivid. (Sachi Matsumoto)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

KYOTO--Two charcoal drawings by an artist dubbed a genius before his death at 22 have surfaced here, after being presumed lost for a century.

The works are by Kaita Murayama, who won renown as a poet and a painter. His life was cut short in 1919 by tubercular pneumonia, triggered by his decadent lifestyle.

Kaita made a name for himself in art and literary circles in the Taisho Era (1912-1926).

An expert described the images as among Kaita’s best sketches.

Brought up in Kyoto, Kaita demonstrated a strong poetic and writing talent from early childhood.

After moving to Tokyo, he trained at the Nihon Bijutsuin, an art institution. His works were displayed at the institute's exhibitions, which led to awards and acclaim.

Titled “Shinshu Fukei” (Landscape of Shinshu) and drawn in 1915, the two paintings depict the scenery of a farming area framed by mountains around the rice harvesting season.

Kaita had a robust style and his sketches are packed with emotion.

They are said to be part of a series Kaita sketched in the Shinshu area of what is now Nagano Prefecture. Kaita’s diary shows that he planned to complete 50 charcoal paintings there.

The two drawings went on display at an exhibition to commemorate Kaita’s death in 1919 in Tokyo, but their whereabouts since then had remained unknown.

It seems likely they were purchased at the exhibition and kept by someone close to the family of a classmate of the artist.

The sketches were found during a clean-up of that individual's book storeroom.

“The fact they were found just before the centenary of his death leaves me thinking of the symbolism of Kaita's persistence,” said an art dealer in Kyoto who was present when the sketches were discovered.

Yasuharu Muramatsu, an art historian and expert on Kaita's works, described the drawings in Shinshu as “one of the best series of Kaita’s landscape sketches, considering the atmosphere of tension depicted in them."

He called the latest discoveries "especially good works in the series.”

Hidetaka Shiga, head of the curatorial section of the Fuchu Art Museum in Tokyo and who is well-versed in modern Japanese art, termed the find as very important.

“The dynamism found in figure paintings can be seen in the landscape drawings,” he said. “In his short life, Kaita completed a limited number of works, so the discovery is significant from the point of view of his career as a painter as well.”