Tawaraya Sōtatsu (俵屋 宗達, fl. early 17th century) was a Japanese artist and also the co-founder of the Rimpa school of Japanese painting.
Although we do not know officially where he was born or died, there has been investigations done by the Japan Art Association with focus on the city of Kanazawa. Late Edo period Tani Buncho he had stated that Sōtatsu was originally from Noto and studied under Sumiyoshi Jokei in Kyoto and once he was an independent painter he had gone into the service of the Kaga Maeda and then it was stated as well that he had died in Kanazawa in the later part of the Kan'ei era. While there has been connections made through Tani and even information gathered by a department that was responsible for compiling the city of Kanazawa's history the records were not accepted by post-World War II art history community as all of this information cannot be considered concrete.
While little is known about any part of Sōtatsu's life there are still parts that are known for fact, one of which being that in 1602 he was hired to repair the 12th-century sutra scrolls which were dedicated to the Itsukushima shrine by the Taira family. It is also known that in 1630 he was given the title of hokkyo, which to even get that would have shown he had achieved a decent amount of fame and success during this time period he was alive. Though during the time many painters of the Edo period had painted in a way that could be said to be much more Chinese in style and even used Chinese subjects to pain, Sōtatsu had going with a more native and Japanese feel, using a more Yamato-e and Tosa traditions. The scenes he painted and made were often taken from Japanese history and literature as well as the landscapes he would use Japanese landscapes over Chinese which was more common to use from those that came from artists coming from the Kano school.
Sōtatsu began to work as a fan-painter in Kyoto. Later, he rose to work for the court as a producer of fine decorated papers for calligraphy. He was highly influenced by Kyoto’s courtly culture. Sōtatsu met the great designer and calligrapher Hon'ami Koetsu, and painted under-designs in gold and silver for his writing. Sōtatsu excelled in projects that needed careful placing of decorative screens and fans, and took this to its highest level. He pioneered a new boldness of color and line. He popularized a technique called tarashikomi, which was carried out by dropping one color onto another while the first was still wet.
Sōtatsu also developed an original style of monochrome painting, where the ink was used sensuously, as if it were color. Among his best works are the illustrated covers he painted for the Lotus Sutra.
The Freer Gallery of Art dedicates the first retrospective outside Japan from October 2015 to January 2016.
Media related to Tawaraya Sotatsu at Wikimedia Commons
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