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Ike no Taiga

Ike no Taiga

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was a Japanese
Japanese people
The are an ethnic group originating in the Japanese archipelago and are the predominant ethnic group of Japan. Worldwide, approximately 130 million people are of Japanese descent; of these, approximately 127 million are residents of Japan. People of Japanese ancestry who live in other countries...

 painter and calligrapher born in Kyoto
Kyoto
is a city in the central part of the island of Honshū, Japan. It has a population close to 1.5 million. Formerly the imperial capital of Japan, it is now the capital of Kyoto Prefecture, as well as a major part of the Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto metropolitan area.-History:...

 during the Edo period
Edo period
The , or , is a division of Japanese history which was ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family, running from 1603 to 1868. The political entity of this period was the Tokugawa shogunate....

. Together with Yosa Buson
Yosa Buson
was a Japanese poet and painter from the Edo period. Along with Matsuo Bashō and Kobayashi Issa, Buson is considered among the greatest poets of the Edo Period. Buson was born in the village of Kema in Settsu Province...

, he perfected the bunjinga (or nanga) genre. The majority of his works reflected his passion for classical Chinese culture and painting techniques, though he also incorporated revolutionary and modern techniques into his otherwise very traditional paintings. As a bunjin (文人, literati, man of letters), Ike was close to many of the prominent social and artistic circles in Kyoto, and in other parts of the country, throughout his lifetime.

Life


Ike no Taiga was born into a poor and socially humble family; his father was a farmer on the outskirts of Kyoto. The family moved into Kyoto proper some years before Taiga's birth, possibly to escape famine. His father found work at the silver mint, which granted his family some small degree of wealth, but he died when Taiga was three years of age. Taiga's widowed mother somehow managed to afford to provide him with good teachers, in all the classical Japanese and Chinese disciplines. At age six, he began receiving instruction in calligraphy and religious matters at the Manpuku-ji Zen
Zen
Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán , which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state."Zen...

 temple. He would continue to foster strong connections with this temple for the remainder of his life.

By age fourteen, Taiga was a professional artist and distinguished calligrapher. He ran a small fan-painting shop in Kyoto, and engraved artists' and collectors' seals as well. It was an encounter with Yanagisawa Kien, a major social and artistic figure of the time, that initiated Taiga's introduction to the world of the bunjin.

Taiga studied painting and calligraphy under Kien beginning in 1738. He became quite fond of the eccentric, but ancient, practice of painting with fingertips and fingernails, and became close friends with two other bunjin students, Kan Tenju and Kō Fuyō. By the age of twenty (1743), Taiga fully considered himself a member of the literati, and took the name "Ike," shortened from his family name "Ikeno" (池野), in emulation of the Chinese tendency for single-character names.

Taiga returned to Kyoto and to his fan shop in the early 1740s. Though the bunjin lifestyle dictated an avoidance of commercialism, Taiga had no other source of income and so he continued to sell his works and various artistic services, much like his contemporary and friend Yosa Buson
Yosa Buson
was a Japanese poet and painter from the Edo period. Along with Matsuo Bashō and Kobayashi Issa, Buson is considered among the greatest poets of the Edo Period. Buson was born in the village of Kema in Settsu Province...

. He married an artist and tea house proprietor in 1746, who went by the art-name
Art-name
An art-name is a pseudonym, or penname, used by an East Asian artist, which they sometimes change. The word and the idea to use a pseudonym originated from China, then became popular in other East Asian countries ....

 () Gyokuran. The pair quickly became well-renowned in the social circles and artistic community of Kyoto. Two years into his marriage, Taiga set off on a series of journeys, another major element of the bunjin lifestyle. He sought to commune with nature, to glean inspiration for his art, and most of all, to simply become a more cultured and experienced individual. After travels through Kanazawa
Kanazawa, Ishikawa
is the capital city of Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan.-Geography, climate, and population:Kanazawa sits on the Sea of Japan, bordered by the Japan Alps, Hakusan National Park and Noto Peninsula National Park. The city sits between the Sai and Asano rivers. Its total area is 467.77 km².Kanazawa's...

, Nikkō, and Mt. Fuji, Taiga stayed for a time in Edo
Edo
, also romanized as Yedo or Yeddo, is the former name of the Japanese capital Tokyo, and was the seat of power for the Tokugawa shogunate which ruled Japan from 1603 to 1868...

. There, he produced paintings and calligraphic pieces, and also learned about Dutch art
Dutch art
Dutch art describes the history of visual arts in the Netherlands, after the United Provinces separated from Flanders. Earlier painting in the area is covered in Early Netherlandish painting and Renaissance art.-Golden Age:...

 from a number of Rangaku
Rangaku
Rangaku is a body of knowledge developed by Japan through its contacts with the Dutch enclave of Dejima, which allowed Japan to keep abreast of Western technology and medicine in the period when the country was closed to foreigners, 1641–1853, because of the Tokugawa shogunate’s policy of national...

(Dutch learning) scholars, including Noro Genjō.

Taiga would continue to travel and to climb mountains for much of the rest of his life, often accompanied by bunjin colleagues. For a time, he took on the of Sangaku Dōja (三岳道者, "Pilgrim of the Three Peaks"). He would often collaborate with his colleagues on joint works of art during this trips; the Jūben jūgi-jō (Album of Ten Conveniences and Ten Pleasures) was created in 1771, as the result of one of these collaborations. The Jūben jūgi-jō, illustrated by Taiga and Yosa Buson, and containing text by Chinese writer Li Yu (1611-c.1680), acclaims and celebrates a life of simple pleasures and communing with nature. The book is widely regarded today as providing an exemplary insight into the bunjin philosophy.

Another artist who would have a dramatic influence on Taiga a little later in life, after his return to Kyoto, was Hakuin Ekaku
Hakuin Ekaku
was one of the most influential figures in Japanese Zen Buddhism. He revived the Rinzai school from a moribund period of stagnation, refocusing it on its traditionally rigorous training methods integrating meditation and koan practice...

, who stayed briefly at Taiga's home in 1752. Though they met only briefly, Taiga began to use elements of Hakuin's personal style, and he soon afterwards sought out many of Hakuin's disciples, working with them and inscribing one another's works.

Some of Taiga's works have been classified National Treasures
National treasures of Japan
National Treasures are the most precious of Japan's Tangible Cultural Properties, as determined and designated by the Agency for Cultural Affairs...

by the Japanese government.

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