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Edo Rinpa: Master Painters of the Eastern Capital
New York Asia Week, March 12 — 21, 2009
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RimpaScholten Japanese Art and Ryo Iida Asian Art are pleased to announce our ninth collaborative exhibition: Edo Rinpa: Master Painters of Eastern Capital, opening March 12th. This exhibition is focused on the paintings of Rinpa artists active in the city of Edo during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Rinpa (or Rimpa) is a highly stylized genre of painting, calligraphy, and decorative arts (including ceramic and lacquer designs). Unlike other Japanese painting styles (such as the Tosa school patronized by the Kyoto courts or the Kano school supported by the samurai class) which were preserved and sustained through generations of artists working within a tradition of masters and students, Rinpa did not develop from a formal family lineage or school. It was simply a shared appreciation of a particular style and technique that was transmitted only intermittently, with periodic revivals approximately one hundred years apart.

RimpaRinpa was first developed by two multi-talented Kyoto artists, Tawaraya Sôtatsu (fl. ca. 1600-1640) and his frequent collaborator, Hon'ami Kôetsu (1558-1637). Although none of Sôtatsu and Kôetsu's pupils achieved their masters' fame, their foremost admirer was Ogata Kôrin (1658-1716) - for whom the entire genre is named. The term 'Rinpa' is an early Meiji Period (late 19th century) classification which was derived from the second syllable, -rin, of Kôrin, hence Rin-pa, or 'school of Rin.' Although later scholarship came to recognize that Kôrin was not the originator of the style, the term endures, and Rinpa (Rimpa) effectively encompasses this loosely associated genre.

While the Rinpa tradition first blossomed in the Imperial capital of Kyoto with the artistic efforts of Kôetsu, Sôtatsu and Kôrin, by the 18th century the style emerged in the political and economic capital of Edo (the so-called 'eastern capital'), where it was developed to a high degree by Sakai Hoitsu (1761-1828). In his early years, Hoitsu studied a variety of contemporary paintings styles, including Kano, Nagasaki and Ukiyo-e, before focusing on the style of Kôrin. While Hoitsu had no direct teacher in the Rinpa line, he learned by copying works of Kôrin and Kôetsu which he was fortunate enough to have access to from his family's collection. His distinctive style contributed to a revival of Rinpa and the establishment of a new line of artists.

This exhibition includes a remarkable fan painting by Hoitsu. The subject is Akigonomi no miya from the Kocho chapter of Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji). While many fan paintings were later mounted as hanging scrolls, this fan remains in excellent condition in its original format. One side depicts the court lady Akigonomi no miya in the highly stylized manner that is rooted in the Tosa School (from which Rinpa painters borrowed heavily) with flat application of colors in vivid pink, red,Rimpa lapis blue, malachite green and gofun (ground oyster shell) on a ground of gold leaf. The reverse shows blossoming white hagi (bush clover or lespedeza) delicately rendered in malachite green, sumi ink and gofun on silver leaf. The dramatic contrast between the opulent gold and jewel tones on the front and the poetic autumnal flower and silver on the reverse is typical of fans made by previous Rinpa masters such as Kôrin.

Following the models set by Hoitsu, many gifted pupils developed the Edo Rinpa style. One of the most talented pupils was Suzuki Kiitsu (1796-1858) who was Hoitsu's first disciple. The exhibition includes a sumi ink painting by Kiitsu, Dragon Ascending the Summit of Mt. Fuji, depicting a rapidly rising dragon emerging from a black cloud before the sacred mountain. While the subject is classical, Kiitsu's skillful manipulation of the difficult tarashikomi (puddling of wet ink) technique for the dark clouds encircling the finely rendered undulating dragon is quintessentially Rinpa.

RimpaWhile earlier Rinpa artists tended to focus primarily on decorative motifs either derived from nature or Japanese literary sources, Edo Rinpa artists expanded their repertoire of subjects to include a broad range of subjects. Collectors familiar with the Rinpa style may be surprised to see two examples of Buddhist subjects portrayed utilizing Rinpa techniques, including a dynamic painting of Fudo Myoo by Tanaka Hoji (1814-1884). The furious face of Hoji's Myoo recalls both Sôtatsu and Kôrin's famous screens depicting the Thunder and Wind Gods (Raiden and Fûten; the Sôtatsu pair are located at the Kennin-ji Temple in Kyoto; the Kôrin pair are in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum); while the curling fingers of waves lapping at the deity's stone plinth are reminiscent of Kôrin's well-known two-panel screen depicting Rough Waves (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 26.117). Another Buddhist painting, a serene Standing Jizo Bosatsu, by Sakai Oho (1808-1841), is depicted with a Rinpa decorative sensibility with flat planes of color on the figure's colorful robe.

The show includes four paintings by Sakai Hoitsu, one painting by Suzuki Kiitsu, one painting by Sakai Oho, one painting by Tanaka Hoji, two paintings by Suzuki Shuitsu (1823-1889), one by Yamamoto Koichi (1833-1903), and a set of three paintings by Nakano Kigyoku (active 2nd half 19th century).

For the duration of the exhibition, March 12th — 21st, the gallery will have general open hours (no appointments needed) Mon. - Sat., 12 to 5pm.