Soga Shohaku


Soga Shohaku 曽我蕭白1730–1781

A recent program of NHK featured the famous dragons of this master painter. Here are some from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, painted around 1763.

雲龍図 Dragon in Clouds
They were a set of four paintings, painted on the upper sliding doors (fusuma) of a temple in Japan. They inclucde the tail, claws and face of the dragon.
Click on the Museum Logo below to see the other parts of this dragon.

Image: 165.2 x 270.7 cm (65 1/16 x 106 9/16 in.)

ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo

龍虎図 Dragon and Tiger

One of a pair of hanging scrolls; ink on paper
Image: 133.5 x 53.6 cm (52 9/16 x 21 1/8 in.)

Both are from the William Sturgis Bigelow Collection


ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo

One more dragon from the Boston Museum Collection:

Maruyama Ôkyo, 1733–1795
龍図 Dragon
Maruyama ookyo, Maruyama okyo

One of a pair of hanging scrolls; ink on paper
Image: 134.7 x 89.4 cm (53 1/16 x 35 3/16 in.)

MFA Boston, William Sturgis Bigelow Collection


Exhibition at the Kyoto National Museum, 2005

The Shohaku Show explores the life and works of the iconoclastic Edo-period painter Soga Shohaku (1730-1781), who has long been believed to come from the province of Ise (now Mie Prefecture). His many works in this area even today appear to confirm this. However, records indicate that from his father's generation the family lived in Kyoto, where many eminent painters, including Yosa Buson, Ike no Taiga, Maruyama Okyo, Nagasawa Rosetsu, and Ito Jakuchu, were active.

Ranking in line with such figures, Shohaku developed his own distinctive style by deviating from the contemporary art scene and professing to the then outdated style of the Muromachi (1392-1572) painter Soga Jasoku (d. 1483), undoubtedly in an attempt to undermine the overwhelming popularity of the realist painter Maruyama Okyo (1733-1795).

Most anecdotes on Shohaku describe an arrogant, brazen, aggressive individual. Though an oversimplification, his social background and a comparison to the life of his contemporary, Ito Jakuchu (1716-1800), may offer some insight into Shohaku's unconventional character. The artist Jakuchu was born as the first son of a prosperous vegetable wholesaler in the Nishikikoji district of Kyoto and lived comfortably for most of his life without having to worry about his livelihood.

He painted as he liked and did not have to sell his works. Shohaku, on the other hand, was born to a wealthy merchant family in Kyoto, which also had a branch store in Edo (now Tokyo), however, by age seventeen, he was without family--he lost his older brother at age eleven, his father at age fourteen, and his mother at seventeen, and appears to have had a younger sister, who remains largely unknown. Such circumstances most likely influenced the artist's works and worldview.

This prolific painter produced many works from his youth to his prime in Ise and the Banshu area (now southern Hyogo Prefecture), and settled back down in Kyoto only in his forties. This retrospective offers a look into Shohaku's world by exploring his childhood and his road to success as a painter through some 120 works, including paintings from collections in the U.S., Germany, and France. Enjoy Shohaku's diverse range and styles through his paintings that reflect his uninhibited, wild and soft, gentle sides.

© Kyoto National Museum


Daruma by Soga Shohaku

© www.wombat.zaq.ne.jp/kaitekido/


Daruma Museum, Japan


Anonymous said...

I saw a show at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts--probably twenty or more years ago of this artist. I saw the dragons. On my pin-up wall board, right here within my view, is the flyer from that exhibit from so long ago. This artist speaks to me like no other.

Christine Hayward

Gabi Greve said...

Dear Christins,
thanks for your appreciation of the work of this great artist.
He is one of my favorites too.

(Early Morning in Japan right now)