Waves at Matsushima

Artist: Tawaraya Sōtatsu 俵屋宗達 (fl. ca. 1600-1643)
Historical period(s)
Edo period, 17th century
Ink, color, gold, and silver on paper
H x W (overall [each]): 166 x 369.9 cm (65 3/8 x 145 5/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 05: Rinpa Screens

Screens (six-panel)

Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, ocean, water, wave

To 1906
Bunshichi Kobayashi (circa 1861-1923), Boston, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Yokohama, to 1906 [1]

From 1906 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Bunshichi Kobayashi in 1906 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Screen List, S.I. 123-124, L. 115, pg. 34, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Kobayashi Bunshichi (C.L. Freer source) ca. 1861-1923


The brilliant paintings on this pair of folding screens are regarded as masterpieces among only six surviving sets of screens by Sotatsu, a talented and innovative artist who headed a painting workshop known as Tawaraya.  As a townsman, Sotatsu produced paintings such as fans for popular consumption.  By the late 1620s, however, Sotatsu was painting for the imperial court, and his works survive in the collections of the Kyoto imperial palace.  For his artistic merit, he was granted the honorary Buddhist ecclesiastical title Hokkyo (Bridge of the Law), which is included in his signature on these screens.
     Matsushima (Pine Islands) is the name of a famous site (meisho) near Sendai, a city in Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Japan.  Its beauty inspired both poets and painters.  In Sotatsu's screens the rock from which pine trees grow are rendered in brilliant mineral colors of green, blue, and brown, highlighted with gold.  Waves in animated forms are delineated in alternating lines of ink and gold, producing a luminous effect.  Clouds and embankments are rendered in particles of gold leaf accented with silver, which has darkened over time to a soft black tone.
     Sotatsu's innovative composition creates a dynamic interplay among the land and cloud forms, the bending pines, and churning waves.  His lifelong interest in pictorial composition left a lasting legacy.  Later painters of the Rimpa school, such as Ogata Korin (1658-1716), repeated the Matsushima theme in their work.  The Matsushima screens were probably painted in the early Kan'ei era (1624-44), a period of cultural efflorescence in Kyoto.

Published References
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Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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