Sōtatsu: Making Waves

Indian Corn Plants

Kokei studied classical Chinese and Japanese art, but he had a special interest in Sōtatsu. He painted this work in one of Sōtatsu’s favorite formats, the two-panel screen, and depicted maize (Indian corn), a subject frequently explored by the Tawaraya studio.

The painting allowed the artist to demonstrate his skills in the tarashikomi technique and to make subtle references to Sōtatsu’s works. These hints include the contrasting colors of the plant leaves as well as the blue-tinted gold color on the right and the pure gold color on the left. There is a strong resemblance to the powerful use of color in Sōtatsu’s The Gods of Wind and Thunder (Kenninji, Kyoto). Similar to Sōtatsu, Kokei took the delicate forms he saw in nature and gave them a stately elegance.

His technical explorations were not limited to imitations of Sōtatsu and other Rinpa painters. Like other artists of his day, Kokei used styles as well as materials from East Asian and Western painting traditions.

Indian Corn Plants
Kobayashi Kokei (1883–1957)
Japan, 1939
Pair of two-panel folding screens
Color on paper
National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, J00511

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