Kumataro Ito, Japanese Artist on Board the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries Steamer "Albatross" During the Philippine Expedition, 1907-1910

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  • After experiencing five years of service in the Atlantic area following its 1882 launching, the U. S. Fish Commission research ship "Albatross" was reassigned to the Pacific coast. During its long career in Pacific waters, the vessel participated in the 1907-1910 Philippine Expedition, its longest and most extensive assignment. Following U. S. acquisition of the Philippines in 1902, the "Albatross" was called upon to survey and assess the aquatic resources of the Philippines. As was usual for this time period, an artist was assigned to the "Albatross" during the expedition to prepare illustrations of any strange or new organisms that might be obtained. The expedition's director, Hugh M. Smith, Deputy Commissioner of Fisheries from 1903 to 1913, chose Kumataro Ito of Tokyo, Japan, for that role. Little is known of Ito's background and life, or why Smith selected him as the expedition's artist, except that by 1907, Ito was a well-known illustrator of fishes in Japan.
  • The author's research concludes that Ito produced preliminary sketches and some color paintings of at least 200 different specimens of fishes seen while aboard the "Albatross"; the paintings are included with the illustration files of the Smithsonian Institution's Division of Fishes at the National Museum of Natural History. Director Smith had a high regard for Ito's beautifully detailed work and invited him to come to Washington, D.C., after the expedition's end to work on final rendering of the sketches. Ito accepted and worked on that and other projects while in Washington, D.C., in 1912, but attribution of Ito's work is rarely acknowledged mainly because he did not usually sign his work. The author states that even now some of Ito's paintings represent the only or best records of fresh color of several species of fish.


  • Ito, Kumataro
  • Smith, Hugh M (Hugh McCormick) 1865-1941
  • National Museum of Natural History (U.S.)
  • United States National Museum Division of Fishes
  • United States Fish Commission
  • Philippine Expedition
  • Albatross (Steamer)


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Article is one of six from a quarterly journal of the National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U. S. Department of Commerce. This issue of the journal is devoted entirely to the U. S. Fish Commission Steamer "Albatross," launched in 1882 as the world's first oceanographic and fisheries research ship; the Introduction features 16 photographs and illustrations. The articles were papers presented at a symposium held on June 30, 1997, at the University of Washington in Seattle; each concerns a phase of the ship's 40-year career as a research vessel. Three figures and 4 color plates showing 24 of Ito's paintings accompany the article, which has extensive footnotes and cites.

Contained within

Marine Fisheries Review Vol. 61, No. 4 (Journal)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu




  • Scientific expeditions
  • Oceanographic research ships
  • Fishes
  • Ichthyology
  • Marine resources
  • Scientific illustration
  • Artists



Physical description

pgs. 42-57

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