“I splashed ink without inhibition, as my hand led me.” --Ike Taiga
The first exhibition in the United States to focus on the Japanese master of ink painting Ike Taiga (1723-1776) and his wife Tokuyama Gyokuran (1727-1784) opens at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on May 1, 2007. It brings together key works from Japanese and Western collections, including two Japanese National Treasures and 10 Important Cultural Properties, and provides an in-depth look at the major Japanese artist of the 18th century. Taiga’s inventiveness and endless experimentation fueled the emergence of the Nanga School and laid the groundwork for the multiple paths that Japanese artists would follow in succeeding generations. Ike Taiga and Tokuyama Gyokuran: Japanese Masters of the Brush contains 209 works, including 125 from Japanese collections, among them exceptional and rarely seen screens, handscrolls, hanging scrolls, as well as album and fan paintings by Taiga and Gyokuran. Because of the fragility of works on paper and silk, there will be a major rotation in the exhibition (June 11). Philadelphia will be the exhibition’s only venue.
Anne d’Harnoncourt, Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, said: “Ike Taiga is among Japan’s great artists and his formidable talent helped to bring about a new way of painting. While it was exceptionally rare for women in 18th century Japan to be painters, Gyokuran, Taiga’s wife, was both a gifted poet and painter. Her works account for about one third of the images in the exhibition. We are grateful to our colleagues at the Tokyo National Museum and the Osaka Municipal Museum for their wonderful cooperation, and to the generosity of our lenders in the United States and Japan who have helped to make this landmark exhibition possible.”
The exhibition is distinguished by a number of scholarly milestones. It is not only the first exhibition in the United States to be devoted to Taiga, a household name in Japan, it is the first to be devoted to Gyokuran anywhere. For the first time also, Taiga’s poetry is translated into English, by the renowned translator Professor Jonathan Chaves, in the accompanying catalogue. Two National Treasures—a pair of six-fold screens, Landscape with Pavilions (Tokyo National Museum) and the album, Ten Conveniences (Kawabata Foundation)—will be shown outside of Japan for the first time. In addition, the Important Cultural Property Five Hundred Arhats, a set of eight hanging scrolls (originally four sets of doors), will be shown outside Japan for the first time. The exhibition reunites two halves of a pair of six-fold screens Bamboo and Calligraphy –one from Japan, the other from an American collection—and brings together eight of the 12 scenes from Landscapes in the Four Seasons, once mounted as a pair of six-fold screens but now existing as separate hanging scrolls in American collections.
Ike Taiga and Tokuyama Gyokuran: Japanese Masters of the Brush is organized by Dr. Felice Fischer, the Luther W. Brady Curator of Japanese Art and Curator of East Asian Art. “Taiga was the central figure of the school of painters known as Nanga, that infused Japanese art with fresh and innovative forms in reaction to the established schools and styles,” Dr Fischer said. “The exhibition will demonstrate how, through his remarkable synthesis of disparate elements and influences—from Chinese precedents to western ideas of spatial representation—Taiga became the master of the brush in 18th century Japan.”
Ike Taiga is best known in Japanese art history as one of the primary exponents of the "Nanga" ("Southern painting") movement. The term refers to the Chinese literati painting school whose adherents were often amateur painters, members of an elite group of scholars and connoisseurs for whom painting represented the artist's inner conception of a landscape or subject, a version of reality seen through the artist's creative consciousness. Taiga’s interest in Chinese themes and methods and his equally creative pursuit of Japanese styles and motifs are reflected in his paintings. In the four decades of his career he produced over 1,000 calligraphies and paintings, many large-scale fusuma (sliding doors) and screens. His output is particularly impressive for its range of styles, techniques, composition and subject matter.
The exhibition is divided into six sections and spans more than 40 years. The first section will contain Taiga’s dated works, from 1733 until 1749, providing a chronology of the artist’s stylistic changes and development. The second focuses on Chinese themes, such as reclusion and bamboo, which Taiga explored during the later decades. There will be two sections devoted to the artists’ exceptional calligraphies. Another will explore Taiga and Gyokuran’s Chinese landscapes, and the conclusion considers the late works, reflecting a synthesis of the various styles and approaches that preoccupied Taiga during his career.
Among the highlights of the exhibition is Poems from the Kokin wakashū (Burke Collection, USA), the earliest calligraphy in the classical Japanese mode, done in his 11th year, and several of his remarkable finger paintings, a technique introduced from China. Another work is the lyrical handscroll of 1749, Wondrous Scenery of Mutzu (Kyushu National Museum), which reflects Taiga’s memories of his first journey to Edo in 1748. In Essay on Fulfilling One’s Desire (Umezawa Memorial Gallery) a handscroll of 1750, Taiga shows a scholar seated in a pavilion surrounded by nature, with his books and brushes, awaiting the arrival of a friend crossing the bridge to his land. It contains inscriptions by two well-known senior Japanese scholar-artists of his day and attests to Taiga’s accomplishments already acknowledged in his mid-twenties. The sections devoted to calligraphy reflect Taiga’s gifts as a painter, but also his exceptional skill in poetry in classical Chinese, some 60 examples of which are translated in into English for the first time in the accompanying catalogue. Among the calligraphies are works executed jointly or in pairs by Taiga and Gyokuran.
The exhibition also contains a number of “true views,” works based on actual scenery rather than other paintings, an outstanding example of which is the memorable bird’s eye view of a mountain range above the clouds, True View of Mt. Asama (private collection, Japan). A highlight of the final section is an album of fan paintings and calligraphies that Taiga did in 1771 of the Eight Views of Xiao and Xiang Rivers (private collection, Japan). While the views are set themes often depicted first in Chinese and then in Japanese paintings, Taiga departed from the standard views and created spare abstractions of the themes. With four or five brushstrokes he summons up mountain peaks that suggest River and Sky in Evening Snow or renders an Autumn Moon over Lake Tung-t’ing with a lone flute player in a small boat.
A fully illustrated catalogue, published by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, accompanies the exhibition (503 p.). It includes essays and contributions by an international team of scholars from the United States and Japan, surveying such fields as Taiga’s interpretation of Chinese literary themes and images, his experiments with “true view” paintings and his calligraphy, as well as examining Gyokuran’s contributions to painting and poetry. Ike Taiga and Tokuyama Gyokuran: Japanese Masters of the Brush is supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Fund for Scholarly Publications and The Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art Studies. It is available in soft cover ($45) and cloth ($75) in the Museum Store, or by calling 800-329-4856 or online.
Entry to the exhibition is free with Museum admission, and is also accompanied by an audio tour ($5).
The exhibition, Ike Taiga and Tokuyama Gyokuran: Japanese Masters of the Brush is organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art with the special cooperation of the Tokyo National Museum and the special assistance of the Osaka Municipal Museum of Art.
This exhibition is supported by the Yomiuri Shimbun and Mitsubishi Corporation, with transportation support provided by All Nippon Airways. The exhibition was also made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Japan Foundation, and by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Major support was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Robert Montgomery Scott Fund for Exhibitions, Andrea M. Baldeck, M.D., and William M. Hollis, Jr., and the Wendt Family Charitable Foundation Fund of the Community Foundation Sonoma County. Generous support was provided by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Maxine S. and Howard H. Lewis, Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest, The Blakemore Foundation, Lois and Julian Brodsky, the Mary Livingston Griggs and Mary Griggs Burke Foundation, Betsy and Robert Feinberg, The Locks Foundation, H. Christopher Luce, The Henry Luce Foundation, Martin and Margy Meyerson, Cecilia Segawa Seigle Tannenbaum, Mr. and Mrs. John M. Thalheimer, Peggy and Ellis Wachs, and other generous donors, and by The Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Initial funding was provided by The Luther W. Brady Fund for Japanese Art Research.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Museum will be offering the following courses and public programs:
Poetry, Painting and Calligraphy: The Literati Arts of East Asia
Lecturer: Frank L. Chance, Associate Director, Center for East Asian Studies, University of Pennsylvania
Exploring objects from the Museum and other collections, this course will place the exhibition of works by Ike Taiga and his wife Gyokuran in a broad East Asian context. With translations of some of East Asia's most famous poems, we will look at both calligraphic presentations of the poems and depictions of their subjects in paintings by artists from China, Korea, and Japan.
1. Ut Pictura Poesis: Painting and Poetry in East Asia
2. Wenren Painting in China: Ideals and Orthodoxies
3. Yangban Culture of Korea in Painting and Poetry
4. Nanga and Bunjinga: Literati Painting in Japan
Thursdays: 4 sessions,
May 3, 10, 17, and 24,
1:30- 2:30 p.m.
Saturdays: 2 sessions,
May 12 and June 2,
Ike Taiga and Tokuyama Gyokuran: Japanese Masters of the Brush at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Hiroshi Senju’s Mural at the Japanese House and Garden
Tour the Museum’s exhibition of eighteenth-century calligraphy masters Ike Taiga and Tokuyama Gyokuran, then visit Fairmount Park’s Japanese house and garden (Shofuso) to meet acclaimed Japanese artist Hiroshi Senju, who has been creating twenty-seven new murals for Shofuso. The morning concludes with a tea ceremony demonstration by a tea master.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
Seminar Room and Shofuso, Fairmount Park
Enrollment limited to 30 participants
Transportation between the Museum and Shofuso provided