Japanese art and a free spirit from the eighteenth century
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The Japanese artist Soga Shōhaku (1730-1781) went against the grain in the eighteenth century because he was greatly influenced by the Muromachi Period. This period, dated 1336 to 1573, but officially coming into existence in 1338, intrigued Shōhaku greatly. Therefore, he preferred the delicate brush style of this period and various other angles to art during the Muromachi Period.
Another interesting angle to Shōhaku, even if sad, is that all immediate family members had passed away during his early life. Of course, the full extent of this to the art he produced – and the independent spirit that developed – isn’t fully known. However, it is abundantly clear that he had to fend for himself despite coming from a fairly wealthy family. Hence, the shadow of death followed Shōhaku way too much during his early life and he also would never witness old age.
The impact of his early life and his traits meant that he would never bow down to the conventions of his day. In other words, the trends of the Tokugawa Period did not embed themselves fully into his artistic soul.
In another article, I comment, “In time, the early influence of the Kano School of Art would become a distant memory for Shōhaku. Instead, the brushstroke of the Muromachi Period and his love of monochrome (Shōhaku also used color) meant that he was extremely distinctive compared with other contemporaries’ of the eighteenth century.”
Overall, the tragedy of his early life and his strong personal traits meant that Shōhaku would never bow to convention. Hence, irrespective of what other people thought, he was adamant that the art world of the Muromachi Period was the right path for him. Therefore, while some firmly disagreed with Shōhaku, others would be endeared by his art and the independent soul that he was blessed with.
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