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Ike Taiga and Tokuyama Gyokuran
Flowering Plum Trees in Mist. Ink and color on paper, pair of six fold screens, 60 x 141 ¼ inches [152.4 x 358.9 cm] each screen. Philadelphia Museum of Art. Purchased with the George W. Elkins Fund, E1969-1-1, 2.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- The Philadelphia Museum of Art will present an exhibition of works by the 18h century Japanese master of ink painting Ike Taiga (1723-1776) and his wife Tokuyama Gyokuran (1727-1784). The first exhibition in the United States to focus on Taiga, it will bring together key works from Japanese and Western collections and provide an in-depth look at the major Japanese artist of the 18th century. His 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. On view from May 1 through July 22, 2007, Ike Taiga and Tokuyama Gyokuran: Japanese Masters of the Brush will contain over 200 exceptional and rarely seen screens, handscrolls, hanging scrolls, as well as album and fan paintings by Taiga and Gyokuran. Among them will be designated Japanese National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties, several of which will be seen outside Japan for the first time. 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.”

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 academic Kano school,” 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.

Ike Taiga was born to a socially humble family in Kyoto. He was a prodigy, producing his first work in calligraphy by age four, about the time his father died. By age six he began calligraphy lessons with the Chinese immigrant Zen monks at Mampuku-ji temple in Uji, near Kyoto. In his mid-teens he had opened his own fan shop in his native Kyoto, to support himself and his widowed mother. His shop became prominently mentioned in contemporary Kyoto guidebooks as one of the “must-see” places to visit. Besides the teachings of the monks at Mampuku-ji, Taiga was exposed to the art of the Chinese literati through paintings in Japanese collections, and through Chinese printed painting manuals such as the Mustard Seed Garden Manual, first printed in Japan in 1662. Some of Taiga's works strongly reflect Chinese models, but native traditions remained a vital part of his oeuvre as well.

To his contemporaries, Ike Taiga was an eccentric marvel, an artist who lived according to the promptings of his own inner voice, indifferent to the worldly preoccupations of those around him. Accounts of Gyokuran and Taiga’s bohemian lifestyle in their small studio next to the Gion shrine in Kyoto abound, and contemporary woodcuts show them painting or playing music together in a book-and-paper-strewn space. He became a celebrity finger painter in Edo (Tokyo) in the late 1740s, on the first of his many journeys. On the course of his travels, he sketched actual sights and began exploring a new style of “true view” painting.

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, including Wondrous Scenery of Mutsu (Kyushu National Museum, Japan), a lyrical handscroll of 1749 that 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, will accompany the exhibition. It will include 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. The catalogue i

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