Aoki Shigeru and Sakamoto Hanjiro were both born in what is now Kurume, Fukuoka prefecture. They studied at the same elementary school, enrolled at the same private Western-style art school, and both aimed to become painters. In a period when Western-style painting was approaching maturity in Japan, each pursued his own individual style. Aoki made his debut in the world of painting while studying at the Tokyo Fine Arts School (now Tokyo University of the Arts). His A Gift of the Sea attracted attention amidst the rise of the trend towards Meiji Romanticism, winning him acclaim while still quite young. Despite his career's brilliant start, he spent the last years of his life traveling aimlessly around Kyushu. His dream of returning to the heart of the art world unrealized, he died quite young.
Sakamoto, stimulated by Aoki, also moved to Tokyo, where he made his debut several years after Aoki's. After studying abroad in Paris, he returned to Fukuoka, where he steadily created work on a variety of themes, including horses, still lifes, and the moon, until his death at 87. Over those years, he developed a tranquil world view.
These two artists were utterly different in personality and style, but Aoki and Sakamoto were aware of each other and also, it is clear, competed with and encouraged each other.
This exhibition commemorates the 140th anniversary of these two artists' birth with about 250 of their works on display. The focus is on works that express their individual characteristics and their relationship with each other as we explore these two artists' journeys during their occasionally intersecting lives.