image: Colorful Realm: Japanese Bird-and-Flower Paintings by ItŎ Jakuchū (1716–1800) National Gallery of Art


About Itō Jakuchū | About the Scrolls | Haiku Instructions | Exhibition Information

About the Scrolls
Yukio Lippit

The Set

Colorful Realm of Living Beings
J. Dōshoku sai-e

By Itō Jakuchū (1716–1800)

Set of 30 vertical hanging scrolls, c. 1757–1766
Ink and color on silk (with gold in cats. 9, 12)
Sannomaru Shōzōkan (The Museum of the Imperial
Collections), The Imperial Household Agency, Tokyo

Created over a span of some 10 years (c. 1757–1766), Itō Jakuchū’s 30-scroll Colorful Realm of Living Beings (J. Dōshoku sai-e) is acknowledged as one of the greatest achievements in the history of Japanese nature painting. In the set’s early scrolls, Jakuchū followed the conventions of the classical East Asian genre of bird-and-flower painting, combining flora and fauna in ways that convey auspicious and literary meanings. As the set evolved, however, Jakuchū’s work became increasingly fanciful, resulting in dynamic and inventive representations of the natural world that defy imagination. In 1765, before completing Colorful Realm, Jakuchū donated the set to Shōkokuji, one of the most pedigreed Zen monasteries in Kyoto, along with the Śãkyamuni Triptych, which would serve as its main icon. At Shōkokuji the paintings were used to adorn rituals commemorating Jakuchū and members of his family, as well as other occasions important to the temple’s ceremonial life. Donated by the monastery to the imperial family in 1889, the 30 scrolls of Colorful Realm have continued to be treasured as exemplars of the highest standards of classical painting. Recent conservation and pigment analysis, along with new photography, have generated further insights into Jakuchū’s remarkable craftsmanship, use of materials, and coloristic technique.1 This new information reveals Colorful Realm not only as a work crafted with the highest care and artistic acumen but also as a prism through which to obtain a greater understanding of East Asian painting traditions and Japan’s artistic past.

Highlights
Jakuchū is the most recognized artist of Japan’s premodern era and Colorful Realm is his masterpiece. The selection of 13 works shown here illustrates the set’s evolution and the artist’s virtuosity and experimentalism as a painter—one who not only applied sophisticated chromatic effects but also masterfully rendered the richly symbolic world in which he moved.

NOTE
1 The identification and discussion of pigments and coloration techniques in the entries have been drawn from Ōta Aya’s and Hayakawa Yasuhiro’s commentary in Itō Jakuchū Dōshoku sai-e chōsa kenkyūhen (Itō Jakuchū’s Colorful Realm of Living Beings, research edition), vol. 2 of Kunaichō Sannomaru Shōzōkan and Tōkyō Bunkazai Kenkyūjo, eds., Itō Jakuchū Dōshoku sai-e zen sanjuppuku (Itō Jakuchū’s Colorful Realm of Living Beings, all 30 scrolls), (Tokyo, 2010).

Peonies and Butterflies, c. 1757
J. Shakuyaku gunchō zu
c. 1757 (Hōreki 7)
142.1 x 79.7 cm
Signature: “Painted by Tō Jokin, or Layman Jakuchū of the city of Heian, at his humble chamber in the Nishiki District”
Seals: (Top left, square intaglio), “Jokin”
(Bottom left, square relief), “Tōshi Keiwa”
(Upper right, rectangular relief), “A new concept derived from established precedent” (Shin’i o hatto no
uchi ni idasu)
Mandarin Ducks in Snow, 1759
J. Setchū en'ō zu
1759, second month (Hōreki 9) (date by inscription)
141.8 x 79 cm
Signature: “Painted in the second month of the ninth year of the Hōreki era by Layman Jakuchū"
Seals: (Top, square relief), “To Jokin, style name ‘Keiwa’”
(Tō Jokin azana Keiwa)
(Bottom, round relief), “Jakuchū koji”
Old Pine Tree and Peacock, c. 1759–1761
J. Rōshō kujaku zu
c. 1759–1761 (Hōreki 9–11)
142.5 x 79.7 cm
Signature: "Made by Layman Jakuchū"
Seals: (Top, square intaglio), "Jokin"
(Bottom, round relief), "Jakuchū koji"
Nandina and Rooster, c. 1761–1765
J. Nanten yūkei zu
c. 1761–1765 (Hōreki 11–Meiwa 2)
142.2 x 79.4 cm
Seals: (Top, square intaglio), "Jokin"
(Bottom, square relief), "Tōshi Keiwa"
Plum Blossoms and Cranes, c. 1761–1765
J. Baika gunkaku zu
c. 1761–1765 (Hōreki 11–Meiwa 2)
142.2 x 79.6 cm
Seals: (Top left, round intaglio), "Jokin"
(Bottom left, round relief), "Jakuchū koji"
(Upper right, square intaglio), "While painting he cares not of old age" (Tansei wa rōshō ni itaru o shirazu)
Lotus Pond and Fish, c. 1761–1765
J. Renchi yūgyo zu
c. 1761–1765 (Hōreki 11–Meiwa 2)
142.5 x 79.6 cm
Signature: "Jakuchū of the Hut of One Bushel of Rice" (Tobei'an-shu, Jakuchū)
Seals: (Top left, round intaglio), "Jokin"
(Bottom left, round relief), "Jakuchū koji"
(Upper right, vertical rectangular relief), "Enlivened by his hand, his paintings are filled with a mysterious spirit" (Tansei kasshu no myō kami ni tsūzu)
Golden Pheasants in Snow, c. 1761–1765
J. Setchū kinkei zu
c. 1761–1765 (Hōreki 11–Meiwa 2)
142.2 x 79.6 cm
Signature: "Made by Jakuchū of the Nishiki District" (Nishiki-machi Jakuchū sei su)
Seals: (Top, square intaglio), "Jokin"
(Bottom, round relief), "Jakuchū koji"
Chickens, c. 1761–1765
J. Gunkei zu
c. 1761–1765 (Hōreki 11–Meiwa 2)
141.8 x 79.4 cm
Seals: (Top, square intaglio), "Tō Jokin'in"
(Bottom, round relief), "Jakuchū koji"
Roses and Small Bird, c. 1761–1765
J. Bara shōkin zu
c. 1761–1765 (Hōreki 11–Meiwa 2)
142.7 x 79.6 cm
Signature: "Painted by Jakuchū of the Studio of the Expansive Spirit"
Seals: (Top, square intaglio), "Tō Jokin'in"
(Bottom, round relief), "Jakuchū koji"
Pond and Insects, c. 1761–1765
J. Chihen gunchū zu
c. 1761–1765 (Hōreki 11–Meiwa 2)
142.2 x 79.5 cm
Signature: "Jakuchū of the Hut of One Bushel of Rice" (Tobei'an Jakuchū)
Seals: (Top right, square intaglio), "Tō Jokin'in"
(Bottom right, round relief), "Jakuchū koji"
(Upper left, vertical rectangular relief), "Enlivened by his hand, his paintings are filled with a mysterious spirit" (Tansei kasshu no myō kami ni tsūzu)
Wild Goose and Reeds, c. 1765–1766
J. Rogan zu
c. 1765–1766 (Meiwa 2–3)
142.5 x 79.6 cm
Seals: (Top, square intaglio), "Tō Jokin'in"
(Bottom, round relief), "Jakuchū koji"
Fish, c. 1765–1766
J. Shogyo zu
c. 1765–1766 (Meiwa 2–3)
142.6 x 79.4 cm
Seals: (Top, square intaglio), "Tō Jokin'in"
(Bottom, round relief), "Jakuchū koji"
Maple Tree and Small Birds, c. 1765–1766
J. Kōyō shōkin zu
c. 1765–1766 (Meiwa 2–3)
142.4 x 79 cm
Seals: (Top, square intaglio),"Tō Jokin'in"
(Bottom, square relief), "Jakuchū koji"