Kijiro Ohta

Moriz Nähr: Garden and exterior view of Gustav Klimt's studio in Feldmühlgasse, May 1917, Klimt Foundation
© Klimt Foundation, Vienna

Moriz Nähr: Reception room of Gustav Klimt's studio in Feldmühlgasse, presumably 1917, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Bildarchiv und Grafiksammlung
© Bildarchiv und Grafiksammlung, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

The Japanese painter Kijiro Ohta loved to travel. During a study trip through Europe in 1913, he visited Gustav Klimt at his studio at Feldmühlgasse 11. Soon afterwards, he wrote about his encounter with the artist in the Japanese art journal Bijutsu Shinpo. 

The Japanese painter Kijiro Ohta was born in Kyoto in 1883. He studied art, English and French in Tokyo from 1902. He then moved to Europe and studied art at the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Ghent. Following his graduation in 1912, he traveled through Europe and visited several famous artists at their studios, including Max Liebermann and Gustav Klimt.

A Meeting with Gustav Klimt
According to his report published in the art journal Bijutsu Shinpo in 1914, Kijiro Ohta spontaneously visited Gustav Klimt at his studio in Vienna-Hietzing, 13th District, in 1913, after previous attempts to arrange a meeting of the two artists had failed. He described his first impression of the painter as follows:

“His facial expression was dignified and calm. He seemed at peace with himself and looked at me silently. To me he seemed strict, but not bad-tempered. From time to time he smiled innocently, like a child.”

Ohta furthermore reported that Gustav Klimt gave him a tour of his studio and showed him parts of his collection of East Asian art as well as some sketches and several (unfinished) paintings. Ohta had previously seen only two of the artist’s paintings up close – The Three Ages of Woman (1905, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Rome) and Judith II (Salome) (1909, Ca’ Pesaro, Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Venice), both of which he had seen during his trip to Italy shortly before. The Japanese painter reported that before leaving the artist’s studio, he asked Gustav Klimt for a signed calling card that he could show at Stoclet Palace, should he have a chance to visit it.

Return to Japan
Ohta returned to Japan in September 1913. A few years later, the painter began teaching art at the public art school in his hometown of Kyoto. He regularly participated in exhibitions in East Asia until the 1930s and also acted as a member of exhibition juries. He died in 1951. Most of his oeuvre is now preserved at The National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo and at The National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto.

Literature and sources

  • Sandra Tretter, Peter Weinhäupl, Felizitas Schreier, Georg Becker (Hg.): Gustav Klimt. Atelier Feldmühlgasse 1911–1918, Vienna 2014.
  • Verein Gedenkstätte Gustav Klimt (Hg.): Kijiro Ohta & Gustav Klimt. Zu Besuch bei Klimt. Das Atelier in Unter-St. Veit in Wien, Weitra 2005.