Ike no Taiga
Life and Career
Taiga was born in Kyoto in 1723. His original surname was Ikeno. His given name is unknown, but he took on a number of pseudonyms, including Taiga and Ôumi. Though originally from a peasant family, Taiga seems to have grown up with some financial stability in his family. He began studying calligraphy and the Chinese classics at a very young age, and when he was a teenager, he opened a painting shop along with his mother. Though the literati ideal was to reject commercialism entirely, Taiga did this as a living, painting fans, and taking other small commissions, even as he maintained his insistence on his identity as a literatus - an amateur who dabbled, and who was more interested in personal refinement than mundane monetary concerns.
Taiga began studying under literati painter Yanagisawa Kien in 1738, and ten years later, spent a short time in Edo, where he was exposed to European art. He also studied under Gion Nankai, and practiced literati painting based on images in imported or reprinted books from China, as well as studying Zen. He traveled extensively across Japan. It is said that as a result, his natural aloofness, combined with a casual artistic manner, contributed to the poetic manner of his portraits and landscapes, and to his achieving greatness and popularity as a literati painter. Among his most representative pieces are a collection of roughly 30 fusuma (sliding door) paintings at the Ôbaku Zen temple Manpuku-ji.
Taiga is absolutely known for his works in the literati style, and for his calligraphy, but is also known for introducing the concept of the shinkeizu, or "True View Paintings." Traditionally, East Asian painting tends to focus on representing the "true" nature of a subject, rather than merely its outward appearance. That is, on evoking its spirit, rather than simply seeking verisimilitude. Taiga's shinkeizu work much the same way, ostensibly depicting specific places without resembling the actual appearance of those sites; however, they still incorporate a greater degree of realism than was typically seen in Japanese landscapes, and so this is celebrated and oft-studied as something which stands out in the history of Japanese art.
When he was around age 30, sometime between 1746 and 1752, he married a woman from Gion named Machi, though it is unclear whether the two fully went through the proper legal procedures. They built a home near Yasaka Shrine, and lived together. Machi took on the name Gyokuran, and became famous as a painter in her own right. Much is said of the couple's eccentricities. As literati painters, though aspiring to a certain amateur ideal of pure artistic expression, and distinction from commercial, professional painters, Taiga and Gyokuran made their living by selling paintings and other works. Gyokuran studied painting under her husband, and taught him poetry; the two also studied poetry with the courtier Reizei Tamemura, and were intimately involved in literati circles in the region.
- Berry, Paul and Michiyo Morioka (eds.) Literati Modern: Bunjinga from Late Edo to Twentieth-Century Japan. Honolulu: Honolulu Academy of Arts, 2008. pp270-271.
- Mason, Penelope. History of Japanese Art. Second Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005.
- Plaques on-site at Jôkô-ji.