Teishitsu Gigeiin (Imperial art expert) (帝室技芸員)

Teishitsu Gigeiin was a system for honoring craftspeople and artisans, which had been operated by the Imperial Household Ministry since 1890 until right after the end of the war (World War II).

The people certified as Teishitsu Gigeiin included Japanese-style painters, Western-style painters, sculptors, metalworkers, potters, lacquerers, swordsmiths, photographers, and so on.


It is said that a confrontation between Ryuchikai (Ryuchi party) and Kangakai (Kanga party) in the late 1880's was the background to the establishment of the system. The latter was a group on the side of Ministry of Education, which included Fenollosa and Tenshin OKAKURA who later found Tokyo School of Fine Arts together in 1889. The reform movement by this group, generally called 'shinpa' (a new school), brought 'kyuha' (the old school) of Ryuchikai-line to a crisis, driving them to seek the patronage of the Imperial Household Ministry with the intention of protecting traditional paintings.

Ryuchikai members started Japan Art Association with Imperial Prince Arisugawanomiya Taruhito as the president in 1887. The association had a strong connection with the Imperial court and the Imperial Household Agency. They granted certification as 'Kunaisho Kogeiin' (craftsperson of the Imperial Household Ministry) the following year, which is said to be the predecessor of Teishitsu Gigeiin, but unfortunately the true nature of it is unclear because of insufficient historical materials.

The system of Teishitsu Gigeiin formally started in 1890. In the system, a craftsperson was nominated by the judges appointed by Imperial Household Minister, and then he or she was appointed by the conference summoned by the president of Imperial Museum. The quota for Teishitsu Gigeiin was 25, and they received production costs for the work by an official order in addition to a pension.

At first, there was a tendency to appoint authorities of Japan Art Association as Gigeiin in order of seniority. However, with the first president of Tokyo School of Fine Arts, Arata HAMAO on the list of the judges, even the original 10 appointees actually included 3 professors of Tokyo School of Fine Arts: Gaho HASHIMOTO, Koun TAKAMURA, and Natsuo KANO. On top of that, after Naohiko MASAKI joined the judges in 1913, Seiho TAKEUCHI and other craftspeople, who were popular in exhibitions sponsored by Ministry of Education, came to be appointed.

Although 79 people had been appointed until 1944, the system died after the war (World War II) with the reorganization of Cabinet Office and the Imperial Household Ministry. However, the system for honoring craftspeople is partially succeeded by the systems such as Order of Culture, Important Intangible Cultural Property, recognition as a member of the Japan Art Academy, and so on.

[Original Japanese]