Takuma Eiga: A Revisionist Analysis
Tale of Genji Screens Genshu seal Right screen (above) and left screen
Editor's Note: The following articles are translations of reviews carried by the latest issue ( No. 1388) of Kokka, a prestigious art magazine published in Japan. The publication, which specializes in old Japanese and Oriental art, was founded in 1889 by Tenshin Okakura, a well-known Japanese art critic and philosopher (1862-1913), among others. It is held in high esteem by researchers and experts aboard.
* Cudapanthaka of Sixteen Arahats (Rakan) by Takuma Eiga
One hanging scroll from a set of 16 hanging scrolls, color on silk
H. 91.0cm, W. 41.0cm
Fujita Museum of Art, Osaka
*Nirvana (Nehan) by Takuma Eiga
Hanging scroll, color on silk
H. 168.2cm, W. 122.5cm
Daijuji, Mie prefecture
By GRATIA WILLIAMS NAKAHASHI
How should Takuma Eiga be regarded in the history of Japanese painting? The answer to this question, as the author argues, requires reconsideration. Since there are no contemporary documents concerning Eiga, scholars have relied on scanty and conflicting details mentioned in Edo-period painting histories, such as the Honcho gashi by Kano Eino (1631-1697) for information about this artist. In fact, it appears that Eino's ambiguous statement that Eiga was a progenitor of a new paradigm in Japanese painting through his study of Chinese brushwork helped to promote this artist as a significant subject of art historical discourse. Moreover, most scholars have accepted wholesale the eight traditional Eiga attributions essentially on the basis of their signatures and seals.
In contrast to previous studies, the present study proposes a revisionist analysis of Eiga with regard to four basic issues. First, it attempts to demonstrate that among the set of traditional Eiga attributions only the set of Sixteen Arahats (Rakan) paintings in the Fujita Museum of Art, Osaka, and the Nirvana (Nehan) painting in Daijuji, Mie Prefecture, can be deemed the standard works of the Eiga atelier. Based on the stylistic affinities exhibited by the Fujita and Daijuji pictures, which bear Eiga signatures and seals, this study posits that they are workshop productions manufactured in the same Buddhist painting atelier headed by Eiga. And, since these paintings are datable to around the mid-fourteenth century, they offer the only viable evidence of Eiga's probable period of activity. Second, it is argued that other polychrome Buddhist paintings attributed to Eiga cannot be firmly ascribed to the Eiga atelier since they lack striking stylistic similarities with the standard works. The third issue concerns Eiga's identity as an ink painter. Heretofore, ink paintings of Hotei and Fugen, which bear Eiga seals, have been unquestioned as evidence of his status as a forerunner in the early development of ink painting. However, given the problematic seals on these pictures, and their lack of significant stylistic correspondence with any Eiga atelier standard work, the notion that Eiga was both an artist of polychrome Buddhist pictures and one who worked independently as an ink painter is called into question. The fourth and final issue concerns lesser known Eiga attributions whose connections with Eiga or the Takuma school are entirely untenable. Nonetheless, these pictures are valuable as evidence of a phenomenon of branding Eiga as a painter of various subjects in vastly different styles to which some traditional Eiga attributions also appear related.
Therefore, by focusing on what appears to be reasonably certain about Eiga, namely, his position as the head of a Buddhist painting atelier in the lineage of the Takuma school, and despite various inconclusive issues that remain regarding the extant works attributed to him, this study attempts to offer a new critical viewpoint for future inquiry concerning this enigmatic artist.
The author is an art historian (Japanese art), Ph.D. and curator of Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, N.Y.
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*The Hill of Aging
Hanging scroll, color on paper
H. 94.1cm, W. 44.8cm
Tokyo National Museum
By NOBUO TSUJI
The Hill of Aging is a pictorial allegory, likening a person's life to the ups and downs experienced on a hilly path. In this painting that conflates different time periods into a single composition, one male figure walking along a mountain path is shown at various stages of his life, from childhood to maturity and old age. The superb expression of the figures suggests that a Yamato-e painter of some standing created the work, but the details of who painted the work are unknown. However, given that the painter employed a combination of Yamato-e and ink painting techniques, and given the three-dimensional expression of the rocks and mountain path, Tosa Mitsunobu and Tosa Mitsumochi, or another similar painter active in Japan's late medieval period, might be suggested as possible candidates. It would seem that The Hill of Aging was created sometime between the latter half of the 15th century and the first half of the 16th century. Other works that express a human life as a mountain path include the Kumano Kanshin Jikkai zu, whose production flourished from the latter half of the 16th century onwards. While the depiction of details differs, it would seem that the Kumano Kanshin Jikkai zu images were created on the basis of The Hill of Aging. The Japanese title of this work, Oi no saka, literally translated here as The Hill of Aging, can be found in the 11th century waka anthology, Goshui wakashu. Fascinating research topics still remain: when did Japanese poets begin to create waka poems about this profound theme; and when did painters begin to create pictorial images of the theme?
The author is an art historian (Japanese art), Ph.D. and director of MIHO MUSEUM, Shiga Prefecture
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* Tale of Genji Screens
Pair of six-panel screens, color on paper
Each screen, H. 158.7cm, W. 354.6cm
By HIDEO YAMAMOTO
This pair of six-panel screens is a truly vibrant work created in full color on a gold ground on paper. The screens present a seasonal arrangement of Tale of Genji painting themes, with the right screen showing three spring and summer chapters from the Tale, working from the right, the Hatsune, Hana-no-en and Utsusemi chapters. The left screen presents four autumn and winter chapters, namely Yugiri, Nowaki, Ukifune and Asagao. The scenes are arranged in complete disregard for their actual position within the narrative progression in the Tale. Each scene is divided from the other through the adroit use of gold clouds, and through such devices the painter was also able to unfalteringly link a potentially complex group of multiple scenes and images. These features reveal the painter's high level of achievement in the Kan school stylistic skills that excelled at large-scale compositional creations. The painting is impressed with the standard Genshu seal, which was used by Kano Soshu (1551-1601) and his son Jinnojo (dates unknown). Given the considerable stylization of the detail expression, it can be surmised that these screens were created by a painter active in the Soshu studio. A production period of around the end of the 16th century to the beginning of the 17th century can be suggested. An unsigned Tale of Genji Scenes Screens today in the Idemitsu Museum of Art collection can be thought to be the iconographic source for these screens, and it is possible that the source Idemitsu work was by Soshu's own hand.
The author is an art historian (Japanese art), curator of Kyoto National Museum and
professor of graduate school of Human and Environment Studies, Kyoto University
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* Puppies Screen by Nagasawa Rosetsu
Two-panel screen, color on paper
H. 69.7cm, W. 187.4cm
By HIDEYUKI OKADA
This painting was created by Nagasawa Rosetsu (1754-1799), a mid-Edo period painter. The two-panel screen shows two puppies on the right panel, while four puppies appear on the left panel. The puppies on the left panel are seated in a clump, with each shown in a different position, whether facing out at the viewer, facing to the side, or with back turned toward the viewer. The two puppies on the right panel both face the left, thus effectively exploiting the horizontal composition. The depiction of the puppies is based on the work of Rosetsu's teacher, Maruyama Okyo (1733-1795), but here Rosetsu added his own unique touch through his depiction of the puppies's line of sight and rich sense of movement. Judging from the signature calligraphy style and shape, it can be surmised that this work was created during the early Kansei era, after Rosetsu had returned to Kyoto from his stay in southern Wakayama prefecture that lasted from around the 10th month of Tenmei 6 (1786) through the 2nd month of the following year.
The author is an art historian (Japanese art), and curator of MIHO MUSEUM
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* Jar with Three Handles and Underglaze Iron Persimmons Design
Egaratsu ware, stoneware with underglaze iron decoration
Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo
By MASAAKI ARAKAWA
Karatsu ware is a general term that refers to stoneware works created in the Karatsu area of Kyushu and Egaratsu, literally painted Karatsu, refers to Karatsu wares with underglaze decoration. This ware was begun at the end of the 16th century by potters working under the direction of potters from the Korean peninsula and remains in production today in the Hizen region of present-day western Saga prefecture on Kyushu. Conversely, Hizen porcelain is the general term given to the porcelain wares created in the Hizen region. This jar is a masterpiece of early 17th century Karatsu ware, and was used as a mizusashi (fresh water jar) for the Japanese tea ceremony. The jar was coil-formed, and underglaze iron slip was used to draw two trees that extend around the jar's torso. The tree motif on this jar has long been identified as a persimmon tree, but this study concluded that, in fact, the tree depicted is a plum tree. Various shards with plum tree motifs that resemble those seen here have been excavated from the Yakiyama kiln site in Imari city. Further, there are numerous examples of works with the same type of dotted flower motif seen here among the Korean ceramics that can be considered the aesthetic and technical source of Karatsu ware. The plum tree motifs that were so deftly and quickly painted by Momoyama period potters are so freely expressed that they can be easily seen as persimmon trees, and it is that very vitality that makes this jar so fascinating.
The author is an art historian (Japanese ceramics) and professor of Gakushuin University.
(The articles were translated by Martha J. McClintock except for NAKANISHI's article.)