Sōtatsu: Making Waves


Tawaraya Sōtatsu (active circa 1600–40) was one of the most dynamic and inventive painters in the long history of Japanese visual expression. A maker of finely decorated papers and folding fans, he worked in relative anonymity. The Tawaraya, his shop/studio in Kyoto, was well regarded, and his clients included aristocrats and merchants. Yet beginning shortly after his death (circa 1640) and through much of the Edo period (1615–1868), he vanished into obscurity, eclipsed by the reputations of calligrapher Hon’ami Kōetsu (1558–1637) and painter Ogata Kōrin (1658–1716). Not until the early twentieth century—thanks in part to the efforts of Charles Lang Freer—did the art world recognize Sōtatsu’s consequential role.

This exhibition begins with one of Sōtatsu’s greatest achievements, Waves at Matsushima, then reveals the elements and techniques he used to produce his finest works, and finally examines the ways in which he inspired artists in the modern era.

Objects on view will rotate throughout the run of Sōtatsu: Making Waves. We hope you’ll revisit the exhibition to see all of the works. Stay tuned for more details.


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