Okakura Tenshin (Kakuzo)

Educator / Critic

Born: 1862
Died: 2 September 1913
Birthplace: Yokohama, Japan
Best known as: Author of The Book of Tea
Okakura Tenshin, also known as Kakuzo Okakura, was a Japanese writer and art curator whose most famous work is The Book of Tea (1906). Okakura grew up in Yokohama, and his family's prosperity allowed him to study at the Tokyo Imperial University and to eventually earn a Masters in Arts degree in 1880. For years he worked collecting and writing about Japanese art and culture with Ernest Fenollosa, becoming a well-known critic of the trend toward westernization. In 1898 he was dismissed from his position at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts and lost government support, but he went on to found Nihon Bijutsuin (the Japan Art Institute). For financial support he travelled to the United States to sell artifacts and found an appreciative audience in Boston. He became a friend and advisor to art collector Isabella S. Gardner, and in 1904 began working at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, later becoming curator of their Japanese and Chinese collections. An art expert who wrote his best known books in English, Okakura is credited with "explaining" Asian art to American intellectuals. His most famous works are The Ideals of the East (1903) and The Book of Tea.
Extra credit: Some sources list his birth year as 1863, but the City of Yokohama and the Tenshin Memorial of Art, Ibaraki say 1862.

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