Legacy of Waves

Ogata Kōrin (1658–1716), scion of a Kyoto textile merchant, traced part of his ancestry to the sister of calligrapher Hon’ami Kōetsu (1558–1637) and thus had privileged knowledge of works by Sōtatsu. Kōrin recognized Sōtatsu’s powerful stylistic innovations and adapted and transmitted them—so much so that his name became synonymous with the style. The term Rinpa derives from the last syllable of Kōrin’s name plus the designator for “group.”

Rinpa artists paid homage to Sōtatsu’s original creations. On exhibition are tributes to his Waves at Matsushima screens by a number of artists, although they sometimes credited Kōrin. (For more examples of Rinpa art, see the Bold and Beautiful exhibitions, on view in the Freer Gallery of Art through January 3, 2016).

The title Waves at Matsushima seems to have been given to the Sōtatsu screens around the time they were purchased by Freer Gallery founder Charles Lang Freer, although the images were not originally connected with that site. During the mid-to-late Edo period, however, the islands of Matsushima, off the northeast coast of Japan’s Honshu Island, were regarded as one of Japan’s famous views, and various iterations of the Waves came to be associated with Matsushima.

Waves at Matsushima Whose Sleeves? Waves at Matsushima
Kōrin hyakuzu kōhen Waves at Matsushima and Mount Fuji Boats on the Sea