Jakuchû, the Playful Painter ― also featuring Kôrin, Ôkyo, Shôhaku, and others ― Commemorating the 220th anniversary of the artist’s death

To mark the 220th anniversary of his death, Okada Museum of Art present all of its 7 artworks of Jakuchû’s late 30s – 81 (4 colored and 3 ink-wash paintings) at this exhibition. They also exhibit artworks of the Kanô school, Ogata Kôrin, Ogata Kenzan (Kôrin’s younger brother), the leading Kyoto painter and his contemporaries, Maruyama Ôkyo, Soga Shôhaku and others. This article introduce some artworks from the exhibition.

Jakuchû’s Profile

Itô Jakuchû(1716~1800)was born during mid-Edo period as the eldest son of a produce wholesaler in Nishiki koji (now located in Nishiki Market) street, Kyoto. (In this year 1716 one of the greatest artists, Ogata Kôrin died) He took over his family’s business at the age of 23 when his father died. At the age of 40 he handed over the business to his brother and started focusing painting activity. In the early days he was studying at Kanô school and copying of Chinese paintings. After that he hoped for watching and painting real life, so he had chickens (roosters) in his garden and started to sketching them. Then he expanded his scope to insects, fishes and birds etc. and became one of popular artists in Kyoto.

Jakuchû’s Artworks

※Photos in the hall were taken with special permission.

Itô Jakuchû, Rooster in Snow (Mid Edo period, latter hail of the 18th century)

This is one of Jakuchû’s late 40s. He draw the moment a rooster stopped walking and turned its head around in the snow. Dropping snow from the bamboo leaves due to its heavy weight and standing rooster on one foot brings a sense of tension into the silence. The rooster’s stereoscopic feathers were partially painted by using a technique called “Urazaishiki”, painting on back of silk fabric. And also painting on face of the fabric, the feathers looked more stereoscopic. The rooster’s one foot on the snow has a tiny amount of gofun (shell-white) on its surface.

Itô Jakuchû, Peacock and Phoenix (Edo period, ca,1755(Hôreki 5) )
※Important Art Object

This work is around the age of 40 when Jakchû retired from his family business and started focusing on painting activity. And the 2 scrolls, which belonged to Asano Daimyô Family of the Hiroshima Domain were re-discovered after 83years, in 2016. They say that these 2 scrolls were followed by the famous work “Colorful Realm of Living Beings”. 

The left scroll shows phoenix imaginary king of all birds, which makes the announcement of appearance of a benevolent government. The phoenix looks up to rising sun. Besides its foot there are some paulownia blossoms. The right scroll shows white peacock standing on rocks with peonies, symbol of wealth. These birds were drawn with pine trees, symbol of longevity. Feathers of the phoenix were painted with combination of contrasting density of various colors and lines.

White feathers of the phoenix and peacock were painted as etching the color of lustrous silk from under the gofun. The whole feathers of the peacock were drawn with fine lines like lace. The texture of its feathers were drawn identifiably by using different types of line. The feather colors of the phoenix’s breast and heart shaped on its tail feather are eye-catchy. The way of drawing its crown and face is also unique and this technique gives the impression that the bird is imaginary. While real white peacocks are all white, the peacock on the scroll was painted with green and blue over the white feather and these 2 colors distinguish not only its beauty but also delicate lines like lace. Such these elements and techniques make me think that Jakuchû were fascinated with changeable streamlines of birds with each movement, too.

Itô Jakuchû, Rooster Standing on a Hat (Mid Edo period, latter half of the 18th century)
/ Partial view

This is one of Jakuchû’s late 40s. He captured a rooster standing on one foot on the top of a straw hat. It looks to balance on the unstable hat surface. At the part of its long tail feather he layered deep ink on pale ink line. And using paper made in China, called ”Gasen-shi” which has thin lines, etched the white lines between its feathers. This technique is called “Sujime-gaki”, you can find on the straw hat, too. It is another point of attention that he captured a rooster as vertical line and painted its face with comic touch. Differed from his artworks in colors his way of drawing were simple because of ink brush painting. I found out the shape of the rooster resembles that of the previous rooster “Rooster in snow” above.

Itô Jakuchû, Crested Myna and the Moon
(Mid Edo period, latter half of the 18th century)

This is the curious work which a hahachô (crested myna) plunges straight down out the sky. There is the full moon in the upper corner. Hahachô is one of the Sturnidae and inhabits in China, there might be some Japanese feed them as pet at that time. Characteristic of the bird is having short hairs around its nose. The white lines on the spread feather resemble the kanji character for eight ”八”, a symbol of eternity. So the bird is seen as lucky bird in China. Tail drawn by blurred ink line brings strength and a sense of speed. Outline of the moon was drawn with extremely short lines surrounded by fine brush and this technique presents the moonlight.   

Leading Kyoto painters and Jakchû’s contemporaries

※Photos in the hall were taken with special permission.

Ogata Kôrin, Hotei (Early Edo period, beginning of the 18th century)

Itô Jakuchû, Thirty-Six Immortal Poets(Edo period,1796 (Kansei 8))

This is “Hotei(Pu-tai)”, one of Kôrin’s work in his late life. Hotei (Pu-tai) is one of Seven Deities of Good Fortune. Such this humorous style using simple line with ink blush is also seen in Jakchû’s ink paintings, for example, at the age of 81 “Thirty-Six Immortal Poets”(Edo Period 1796(Kansei 8))describing Heian era’s 36 greatest poets. It is very interesting that Jakchû was born in the same year Kôrin died.

Nagasawa Rosetsu, Poet Botanka Shôhaku
(Mid Edo period, latter half of the 18th century)

Rosetsu described Shôhaku, one of poets in Muromachi period, who loved flower, incense and sake (Japanese alcohol). While it is said that, Shôhaku painted horns of his cow with gold, in this drawing he and decorates its ear with flowers. Rosetsu captured Shôhaku’s backword-riding on his cow for expressing his life style could be imagined.

Maruyama Ôkyo and Genki, Three Beauties (Edo period, 1783 (Tenmei 3))
※Important Art Object

The middle scroll shows higher-ranking courtesan in Shimabara, Kyoto, painted by Ôkyo. The right is a young woman and left is a married woman by his disciple, Genki. The patterns of Kimonos and Obi belts were drawn in details.

I’nen Seal, Flowers and Grasses in Spring, Summer and Autumn Grasses
(Early Edo period, ca, mid 17th century)

About 45 types of flowers including astragalus, irises, hollyhocks, chrysanthemum, clover, wolf’s bane, are seen on the gold folding screen. Spring and Summer flowers were drawn on the right, summer and autumn flowers were on the left. This work is bright and grace unique to Rinpa school. Inen Seal is the brand mark of workshop operated by Tawaraya Sôtatsu. You can see other gold folding screens present graceful Kyoto at introduction section of this exhibition.

Jakuchû, the Playful Painter ― also featuring Kôrin, Ôkyo, Shôhaku, and others ― Commemorating the 220th anniversary of the artist’s death

Venue: Okada Museum of Art
Date: Oct.4 (Sun), 2020 – Mar.28 (Sun), 2021

For more information: