Kan Hgai (, February 27, 1828 November 5, 1888) was a Meiji era (19th-century) Japanese artist of the Kan school. As one of the last Kan artists, he helped pioneer the nihonga art style with Hashimoto Gah and art critic Ernest Fenollosa. Hgai's work reflected the traditional style of the school whilst still showing experimentation and influence with Western methods. Hgai is perhaps best known for his paintings of dragons, birds, and Buddhist gods such as Kannon (also known as Guanyin).
The son of the local daimy's chief painter, he was sent at the age of 18 to Edo to study painting formally. He stayed there for ten years and studied under Kan Shsen'in and other prominent artists of the time. Hgai would eventually be called upon for such esteemed commissions as ceiling paintings for Edo Castle. He also received the honor of having some of his works displayed at the 1876 Paris International Exposition.
However, despite these honors, the economic turmoil created by the fall of the shogunate in 1868 forced Hgai to seek to support himself with income via more mundane methods. He worked at casting iron, reclaiming land, and running a shop selling writing instruments. In 1877 Hgai returned to Edo, now called Tokyo, and worked for the wealthy Shimazu clan; this gave him the opportunity to study works by some of Japan's greatest painting masters, including Sessh and Sesson.
In 1884, Hgai attracted the attention of Ernest Fenollosa, an art critic and collector from New England, who befriended him and bought several of his paintings. Along with Fenollosa, Okakura Kakuz and Hashimoto Gah, Hgai then took part in the Painting Appreciation Society (, Kangakai). The Society was created to draw attention to the traditional Japanese arts, particularly classical art of the Heian and Nara periods which were beginning to be seriously neglected, with many works sold or even destroyed due to Japan's newfound interest in the West.
- Baekeland, Frederick (1985). "Kan Hgai." Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd.