Suiboku: Water & Sumi Ink

Scholten Japanese Art and Ryo Iida Asian Art
present Suiboku: Water & Sumi Ink

New York Asia Week, March 26 - April 3, 2005


Ryo Iida Asian Art and Scholten Japanese Art are very pleased to be offering an exhibition of Japanese ink paintings during New York’s March- April 2005 Asia Week. This small but select exhibition includes five suiboku (monochrome) paintings: one painting by Kano Motonobu and four paintings of the Sotatsu school. In addition to the group of ink paintings, the exhibition will include a selection of lacquer and ceramic objects to complement the studied mood of the show, including an 18th century lacquer ink stone box (suzuribako) with a decoration of a rooster under a crescent moon.

In the Japanese painting tradition, sumi-e (ink painting) has often been regarded as the highest test of an artist’s skills. The artist must have the technical skill to control the brush (yohitsu) and control the delicate balance between the water and carefully prepared ink (yoboku). The strength of the brush stroke must do more than replicate or render the subject- it must embody its vitality and essence as well. As Henry P. Bowie wrote so succinctly in 1911: ‘Colors can cheat the eye but sumi never can; it proclaims the master and exposes the tyro.’ (On The Laws of Japanese Painting, p. 39).


This painting tradition is rooted in Chinese ink paintings, exemplified by a painting from the exhibition: Kano Motonobu’s laughing Hotei was done after a painting of the same subject by the Chinese master monk painter Mu-ch’i (Mokkei in Japanese). Hotei, a half-mythological, half-historical figure of Zen Buddhism is one of the most popular Japanese deities. Seian Soshi, the 93rd master of the Daitokukuji-temple (most respected Zen temple in Kyoto), wrote the inscription for the painting. This painting shows an interesting transition from Chinese painting to Japanese painting during 16th century.


The four Sotatsu school paintings in the exhibition were originally from a set of twelve mounted as a pair of six panel screens. Each painting is impressed with the large round Inen seal attributed to Tawaraya Sotatsu (active late 16th century to early 17th century) and his studio. Sotatsu was the proprietor of a shop in Kyoto called the Tawaraya, which is believed to have produced painted fans, lantern paper, shikishi (decorated square paper for paintings or calligraphy), and tanzaku (decorated paper strips). During the early years of the seventeenth century, Sotatsu’s Tawaraya shop established a reputation for artistic excellence among cultivated and wealthy circles in Kyoto. Sotatsu is regarded as the founder of the famous Rinpa style of decorative arts, although the genre is somewhat misleadingly named after a later master artist Korin (Rin-pa: school of Rin). The subjects of the Sotatsu school paintings in this exhibition include three depictions of sennin (mythological monk-like figures), and a composition of a bird and lotus pond. The rhythmic contrast of thick and thin sumi ink demonstrates the painter’s control of the brush (yohitsu), while the delicate embellishment utilizing the tarashikomi technique (in which the darker colors are dripped over a lighter, wet pigment) are distinctive of Sotatsu and the Rinpa school.

The exhibition opens March 26th and continues through April 3rd. Scholten Japanese Art, located at 145 West 58th Street, Suite 6D, is open Monday through Friday, and some Saturdays, 11am to 5pm, by appointment. To schedule an appointment please call 212.585.0474. For the duration of the exhibition the gallery will have general open hours 11 am to 5pm.


Scholten Japanese Art is open Monday - Friday, and some Saturdays by appointment only

Contact Katherine Martin at
(212) 585-0474 or email
to schedule a visit between 11am and 4pm preferably for no more than two individuals at a time.
Visitors are asked to wear face masks and practice social distancing at their discretion.

site last updated
September 22, 2022

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475