Georges Ferdinand Bigot

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Georges Ferdinand Bigot ジョルジュ・フェルディナン・ビゴー
(1860 - 1927)

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a French cartoonist, illustrator and artist.
Although almost unknown in his native country, Bigot is famous in Japan for his satirical cartoons, which depict life in Meiji period Japan.
Bigot was born in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, France and was encouraged into the arts by his mother. At the age of twelve, he was accepted by the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he was trained by artists such as Jean-Léon Gérôme and Carolus-Duran. While in school, Bigot was introduced to Japonism and befriended a number of collectors of Japanese art.
He was also impressed with the Japanese pavilion at the Exposition Universelle (1878), all of which aroused in him a strong interest to move to Japan.
In order to pay for the trip, he became an illustrator for newspapers, La Vie Moderne and The World Parisien and sold illustrations for Émile Zola's novel Nana. Bigot arrived in Yokohama in 1882. On arrival, he took lessons in the Japanese language and Japanese painting, and taught watercolor painting to students at the Imperial Japanese Army Academy as an oyatoi gaikokujin. He also sold illustrations to Japanese newspapers, and issued an illustrated book Japanese Sketches.
On the expiry of his government teaching job, he found employment as a French language teacher at a school run by the writer and liberal political philosopher Nakae Chōmin.
He also traveled extensively around Japan.
In 1887, Bigot published a satirical magazine, Tōbaé, in which he illustrated mostly scenes of everyday Japanese life, but also ridiculed Japanese politicians and what he felt to be excesses of in the Westernization of Japan.
The newspaper had to be published in Yokohama for fear of Japanese censors.
During the First Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), Bigot traveled to Korea on special assignment from the English magazine London Graphic.
In 1895, Bigot married Masu Sano and fathered a son named Maurice.
However, with the revision of the unequal treaties and the end of extraterritoriality in Japan in 1899, Bigot decided to return to France.
He divorced his wife, but kept custody of their son. After his return to France, he worked for Le Chat Noir and other French magazines and newspapers. He also provided cartoons depicting the Second Boer War and the Russo-Japanese War.
On retirement, he moved to Bièvres, Essonne, where he died in 1927.
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Georges Bigot and Japan, 1882-1899 Satirist, Illustrator and Artist Extraordinaire
edited by Christian Polak and Hugh Cortazzi
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Incorporating over 250 illustrations, this is the first comprehensive study in English of French artist and caricaturist George Ferdinand Bigot (1860-1927) who, during the last two decades of the nineteenth century, was renowned in Japan but barely known in his own country.
Even today, examples of his cartoons appear in Japanese school textbooks.
Inspired by what he saw of Japanese culture and way of life at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1878, Bigot managed to find his way to Japan in 1882 and immediately set about developing his career as an artist working in pen and ink, watercolours and oils.
He also quickly exploited his talent as a highly skilled sketch artist and cartoonist.
His output was prodigious and included regular commissions from The Graphic and various Japanese as well as French journals.
He left Japan in 1899, never to return. The volume includes a full introduction of the life, work and artistry of Bigot by Christian Polak, together with an essay by Hugh Cortazzi on Charles Wirgman, publisher of Japan Punch. Wirgman was Bigot's 'predecessor' and friend (he launched his own satirical magazine Tôbaé in 1887, the year Japan Punch closed).
Georges Bigot and Japan also makes a valuable contribution to Meiji Studies and the history of both Franco- and Anglo-Japanese relations, as well as the role of art in modern international relations.
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Charles Wirgman (1832 - 1891)
was an English artist and cartoonist, the creator of the Japan Punch and illustrator in China and Meiji period-Japan for the Illustrated London News.
Wirgman was the eldest son of Ferdinand Charles Wirgman (1806–57) and brother of Theodore Blake Wirgman. He married Ozawa Kane in 1863, and the couple had one son.
Wirgman arrived in Japan in 1861 as a correspondent for the Illustrated London News, and resided in Yokohama from 1861 until his death.
He published the first magazine in Japan, the Japan Punch, monthly between 1862 and spring 1887.
Like its British namesake, the magazine was written in a humorous, often satirical manner, and was illustrated with Wirgman's cartoons.
Wirgman formed a partnership called "Beato & Wirgman, Artists and Photographers" with Felice Beato from 1864 to 1867.
Wirgman again produced illustrations derived from Beato's photographs while Beato photographed some of Wirgman's sketches and other works.
Wirgman taught western-style drawing and painting techniques to a number of Japanese artists, possibly including the ukiyo-e artist Kobayashi Kiyochika.
From 1865 he had Goseda Yoshimatsu and Kanō Tomonobu as his pupils.
In 1866 he taught Takahashi Yuichi, sponsoring his work for the International Exposition of 1867.
He also was briefly an English tutor, most notably to the future Admiral Tōgō, then a young cadet.
In the 1860s, he accompanied British envoy Sir Ernest Satow on a number of journeys around Japan as described in Satow's Diplomat in Japan.
Wirgman's grave is in the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery.
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