Nankoku Hidai (比田井 南谷)


  • NO.27

  • 61-1

  • 63-4

  • 64-6


Second son to Tenrai and Shokin Hidai, Nankoku Hidai studied under his father and the “Father of Modern Calligraphy”, Tenrai. Following Tenrai’s death, the artist inherited his father’s calligraphy research institute, “Shogakuin” and subsequently began managing thousands of precious monuments whilst simultaneously reopening the Shogakuin Publishing Department to publish high-quality educational literature.

In 1945, Nankoku created his first avant-garde work, Den no Variation (lit. Lightning Variation), and, shocking his fellow contemporaries, displayed his work at an art exhibition, rather than a calligraphy exhibition. As one of the earliest, leading figures of the avant-garde calligraphy movement, Nankoku transformed the world of calligraphy through his revolutionary introduction of “the art of the line”. The artist would subsequently play a crucial role in the growth, education, and circulation of avant-garde calligraphy in, both, the East and the West. Furthermore, in addition to the many lectures he held on calligraphy at numerous, preeminent universities worldwide, i.e. Princeton and Columbia, Nankoku was a close friend and collaborator of the likes of Wallase Ting, as well as American Abstract Expressionists and European Art Informel artists such as Ulfert Wilke, and K.R.H. Sonderborg.

In 1961, Nankoku became one of the first avant-garde calligraphers the Museum of Modern Art, NY has ever acquired works by. The artist has held solo exhibitions in major cities such as Tokyo and New York and has been invited to participate in numerous contemporary exhibitions. In 2017, through acquisition, Nankoku’s works became a part of M+, Hong Kong’s collection.

Official Website:





“Calligraphy” as the Embodiment of Modernism, Takayuki Kurimoto

Written by the modern calligraphy scholar and art critic, Takayuki Kurimoto, this essay explores the Modernist traits of Nankoku’s line art. See below for the full text.


Nankoku Hidai | Calligraphy as Painting, Yuji Akimoto

Art critic, independent curator and former Chief Executive Director of 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Yuji Akimoto’s essay explores the originality and unprecedented nature of Nankoku Hidai’s calligraphy. See below for the full essay.

[Solo Exhibitions]

1956: “Solo exhibition”, Yoseido Gallery, Tokyo. (February & October)

1958: “Solo exhibition”, Yoseido Gallery, Tokyo.

1959: “Solo exhibition”, Muramatsu Gallery, Tokyo

           “Solo exhibition”, Gallery A, Melbourne, Australia.

           “Solo exhibition”, Yoseido Gallery, Tokyo.

1960: “Solo exhibition” (featuring ancient ink rubbings of calligraphy), David Cole Gallery, Sausalito, California.

           “Solo exhibition”, Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco.

           “Solo exhibition”, Mi Chou Gallery, New York.

1961: “Solo exhibition”, Mi Chou Gallery, New York.

           “Solo exhibition”, (featuring works by American students) at Muramatsu Gallery, Tokyo.

1963: “Solo exhibition”, Mi Chou Gallery, New York.

1964: “Solo exhibition”, Tsubaki Kindai Gallery, Tokyo.

1965: “Solo exhibition”, Mi Chou Gallery, New York.

           “Solo exhibition”, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Madison, New Jersey.

1966: “Solo exhibition”, the San Francisco Museum of Art.

           “Solo exhibition”, the Henry Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle.

1967: Solo exhibition at Okura Gallery, Tokyo.

1979: “Solo exhibition”, as part of Festival Nieuwe Muziek (Festival of Modern Music), Middelburg, the Netherlands.

1987: “Solo exhibition”, Tokyo Gallery, Tokyo.

2000: “Nankoku Hidai”, TOKYO Gallery + BTAP, Tokyo

2002: “Writepainting: Marks in a Japanese Vein”, The Museum of Fine Arts, Gifu

2016: “NANKOKU Hidai Nankoku Sen”, Kashima Arts, Tokyo.

2022: Special Exhibition, “Seitan 110 Nen Kinen, Hidai Nankoku ~Sen no Geijutsu~”, Kasugai City Tofu Memorial Museum, Aichi.

2022-3: “HIDAI NANKOKU“, √K Contemporary, Tokyo

2024: “Art Basel Hong Kong 2024” (√K Contemporary Booth), Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre, Hong Kong

[Group Exhibitions]

1937: “Shodo Geijutsusha-ten” (Exhibition of Calligraphy Art Group), Tokyo.

1937-41: Annual display, “Dai Nihon Shodoin-ten” (Exhibition of Greater Japan Calligraphy Association), Tokyo.

1941: “Koa Shodo Renmei-ten” (Exhibition of Association for the Promotion of Asian Calligraphy), Tokyo.

1946: Displays first abstract calligraphy work. “Shinsen Sakuhin Dai Ichi Den no Variation”, (Shinsen Sakuhin No. 1 Lightning Variation) exhibited in Japan at “Gendai Bijutsukyokai-ten” (Modern Fine Art Association Exhibition), Tokyo.

1946-57: Annual display, “Nihon Shodo Bijutsuin-ten” (Japan Calligraphy Fine Art Association Exhibition), Tokyo.

1948-85: Generally annual display, “Mainichi Shodo-ten” (Mainichi Calligraphy Exhibition) / ”Mainichi Zen’eisho-ten” (Mainichi Avant-garde Calligraphy Exhibition), Tokyo.

1954-55: Several kasuri (flying white script) calligraphy works exhibited at “Mainichi Shodo-ten”, Tokyo.

1955-56: “Contemporary Japanese Calligraphy: The Art of Ink” tours Europe (domestic show, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo 1955).

1956-60: Initiated and exhibited in the annual “Hidai Tenrai Kinen Zen’eisho-ten” (Avant‐garde Calligraphy Exhibition in Memory of Tenrai Hidai), Muramatsu Gallery, Tokyo.

1957: “Gendai Shodo-ten” (Calligraphy in Japan), Sankei Kaikan and Ginza Matsuzakaya Department Store, Tokyo.

1958: “Nihon Zen’eisho-ten” (Japan Avant-garde Calligraphy Exhibition), Ginza Gallery, Tokyo.

           “Dai-ikkai Zen’eisho Daihyosakka-ten” (First Exhibition of Representative Avant-garde Calligraphers) organized by Mainichi Newspaper, Sogo Department Store, Tokyo.

           “Chusho Kaiga no Tenkai” (The Development of Japanese Abstract Painting), National Museum Of Modern Art, Tokyo.

1959: Ten works exhibited at “Domestic Show of Exhibits for Fifth Biennial of São Paulo, “National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo

           “Dai-nikai Zen’eisho Daihyosakka- ten” (Second Exhibition of Representative Avant-garde Calligraphers), Shirokiya Department Store Tokyo.

           Four-man show, “Traditie en Vernieuwing in de Japanse Kunst” (Tradition and Revolution in the Japanese Art), Rijksumuseum Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, the Netherlands.

Five works exhibited at the “Fifth Biennial of São Paulo”, São Paulo Museum of Modern Art, Brazil.

1960: “Modern Painting and Sculpture from California Collections”, University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley.

1961: “Japanische Kalligraphie der Gegenwart” (Contemporary Japanese Calligraphy), sponsored by Kunstverein Freiburg, West Germany.

1962: “Tenrai Igyo-ten” (Exhibition of Tenrai Hidai’s Works and Legacy), Nihonbashi Takashimaya Department Store, Tokyo.

           “4000 Years of Oriental Calligraphy,” Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts.

           “Sinn und Zeichen, Kalligraphien Japanischer Meister der Cegenwart” (Meaning and Symbol, Masters of Contemporary Japanese Cal1igraphy), Darmstadt, Augsburg and Berlin, West Germany.

           “Recent Acquisitions: Painting and Sculpture”, Museum of Modern Art, New York.

1962-64: “Japanese Contemporary Sumi Painting” tours the U.S.

1963: “Schrift und Bild —Art and Writing”, Baden-Baden, West Germany and Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

           “Modern Japanese Calligraphic Painting” by Museum of Modern Art and Design of Australia tours Melbourne and eight Australian cities.

           “Paintings by Six Contemporary Japanese,” Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

           “Dai-ikkai Gendai Shodo Shusaku-ten” (First Contemporary Calligraphy Show), BSN Niigata Art Museum.

           “Dai-ikkai Gendai Nihon Shoka Sanjunin-ten” (First Exhibition of Thirty Contemporary Japanese Calligraphers), sponsored by Tokyo Times, Shinjuku Isetan Department Store, Tokyo.

1964: “Dai-nikai Gendai Shoka Sanjunin-ten” (Second Exhibition of Thirty Contemporary Japanese Calligraphers), sponsored by Tokyo Times, Shinjuku Isetan Department Store, Tokyo.

1964-65: “Contemporary Japanese Painting,” by Corcoran Gallery of Art tours Washington, D.C. and four other American cities.

1965: “Tenth Mary Washington Annual Exhibition of Modern Art,” Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, Fredericksburg.

“Kakusakai Sho-ten” (Kakusakai Calligraphy Show) Bansui Gallery, Tokyo.

1966:“Dai-nikai Gendai Shodo Shusaku-ten” (Second Contemporary Calligraphy Show), BSN Niigata Art Museum.

1967-68: Contemporary Japanese Abstract Calligraphy”, Emily Lowe Gallery, Hofstra University, Hempstead, New York.

1968: “Shodo: Sumi no Geijutsu-ten” (Calligraphy: Art of Ink Exhibition), BSN Niigata Art Museum.

1968-70: Annual “Gendai Shodan Meiryu―-ten” (Exhibition of Masters of the Contemporary Calligraphic World), sponsored by Tokyo Times, Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Department Store, Tokyo.

1970: “Fine Arts Exhibition Expo 70: Discovery of Harmony,“ Expo Museum of Fine Arts, Osaka.

1970-85: Annual display, “Genbu Shodo-ten” (Genbu Calligraphy Exhibition), Ginza Mitsukoshi Department Store, Tokyo.

1971: “Gendai Nihon Shodo-ten” (Exhibition of Contemporary Japanese calligraphy), organized by Mainichi Newspaper, tours the U.S.

Dual exhibition with Nankoku and Shoha Hidai, Galerie Lambrette, Frankfurt.

1972: “Very Small Paintings/Objects/Works on Paper”, University of Iowa Museum of Art.

“Hidai Tenrai Seitan Hyakunen-ten” (Centennial Exhibition on the Birth of Tenrai Hidai), Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Department Store, Tokyo.

1972-73: Annual display, “Shodan Zen’ei–Sho no Tankyu-ten” (Exhibition of Calligraphic Quest by Avant-garde Calligraphers), Gallery Center Hall, Tokyo.

1973:  “Contemporary Calligraphy in Japan” Art-Asia Gallery, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

1975: “Tenrai Kinenkan Kaikan Kinen-ten” (Commemorative Exhibition on the Opening of the Tenrai Memorial Museum), Tenrai Memorial Museum, Nagano prefecture.

1976-77: “Moderne Japanische Schreibkunst” (Modern Japanese Calligraphy) by Klingspor Museum tours Offenbach, and four other cities in West Germany.

1979: “Contemporary Calligraphy,” Chicago, Illinois.

1999: “Sho no Dento to Sozo” (The Tradition and Creativity of Calligraphy), Koumi-machi Kougen Museum of Art, Nagano

2009 “Four Stories: Paths to Japanese Modern Art“, Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art, Chiba

2016 “A Feverish Era: Art Informel and the Expansion of Japanese Artistic Expression in the 1950s and ’60s“, The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto

2017-18 “The Weight of Lightness: Ink Art at M+“, M+, Hong Kong 

2021: “Linework” √K Contemporary, Tokyo

2021-23: “Individuals, Networks, Expressions“, M+, Hong Kong



1981: “Tousen Gasaku Mouji Shouroku” (Collection of Words Written on Ceramic Tiles), Shogakuin Publishing Department, Oyamakaku Publishing.

1987: “Hidai Nankoku Sakuhin” (Hidai Nankoku Works) Shogakuin Publishing Department

1990: “Shiyuku Kaishiyo Hanniya Shinkiyo (Orijou)” (Essay on Calligraphy (Eclectic Style)) Tenrai Shoin.

2008: “Chūgoku shodō-shi jiten “ (Encyclopedia on Chinese Calligraphy History), Popular version, Tenrai Shoin.

2010: “Tenrai Shosaku Jyou”, (Study of Tenrai’s Collection) Tenrai Shoin.

2016: “NANKOKU Hidai Nankoku” (NANKOKU Hidai Nankoku Exhibition), Kashima Arts.

2021: “M+ Collections: Highlights”, M+, Thames & Hudson

2022: “Seitan 110 Nen Kinen, Hidai Nankoku ~Sen no Geijutsu~”, Kasugai City Tofu Memorial Museum.


Public Collections:

The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto / Saku City Koma no Sato Fureai Center / Saku City Museum of Tenrai / Chiba City Museum of Art / The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo / Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo / Naritasan Calligraphy Museum / Nagai Museum of Modern Art / Hokkaido Hakodate Museum / Yale University Art Museum / University of California, Berkeley Museum / Kröller-Müller Museum / Cornell University Johnson Museum of Art/ San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, / Museum of Modern Art New York / Harvard University Fog Museum of Art / National Gallery of Victoria / M+