Iwasa Matabe (岩佐又兵衛)

Matabe IWASA (1578-July 20, 1650) was a painter in the early Edo period. Matabe was his common name and his real name was Katsumochi.

Brief Personal History
He was born as a son of the lord of Arioka-jo Castle in Itami, Kawabe County, Settsu Province (now Itami, Itami City, Hyogo Prefecture), Murashige ARAKI. In the following year after his birth, Murashige attempted to rebel against Nobunaga ODA (the Battle of Arioka-jo Castle) and failed. When the castle fell, most members of the Araki family were killed, but Matabe, who was in his second year, was saved by his nanny and sheltered in Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple, and then came to use his mother's family name, IWASA, as his family name. At the age of 40, he moved to Kitanosho (now Fukui City) and stayed there for more than twenty years, and then moved to Edo, where he finished his life full of ups and downs. It is unknown who was his master of painting, although there is a theory that it was Naizen KANO, whose father was a vassal of Murashige. He was one of Yamato-e (traditional Japanese painting) painters representing the early Edo period, equaling Sotatsu TAWARAYA, but he created his own unique style of painting by absorbing various schools' ways. In the "Kanaya Screen," which had been divided into several pieces by now, the subjects of painting and techniques from Chinese and Japanese classics were beautifully fused, and viewers can see the fruits of his style. The distinctive feature of Matabe's painting can be seen best in the representation of people; they have strongly-built bodies and their movements are extremely emphasized, which could almost disturb a balance. They have rich cheeks and long jaws, so their looks are described '豊頬長頤' (rich cheeks and long jaws). It is frequently said that his works, whose distinctive features are his dramatic touch and energetic representation, are the origin of Ukiyoe (Japanese woodblock prints).

He is said to be a model of 'Domomata,' or also called Matabe UKIYO, who is the main character of 'Keisei Hangonko,' which is a popular program in kabuki (Japanese traditional performing art) or bunraku (the traditional Japanese puppet theater).

Representative Works

Fujoyurakuzu Screen (Matsuura Screen)' (National Treasure) The Museum Yamatobunkakan
The Thirty-six Immortal Poets in Kawagoe Tosho-gu Shrine' (Important Cultural Property)
Portraits of Thirty-six Immortal Poets' (Important Cultural Property) Senba Tosho-gu Shrine
Festival of Hokoku Shrine Screen' (Important Cultural Property) The Tokugawa Art Museum
The Tale of Yamanaka Tokiwa Picture Scroll' (Important Cultural Property) MOA Museum of Art
The Tale of Princess Joruri Picture Scroll' (Important Cultural Property) MOA Museum of Art
KAKINOMOTO no Hitomaro and KI no Tsurayuki' (Important Cultural Property) MOA Museum of Art
Women of a Public Bathhouse, Yuna' (Important Cultural Property) MOA Museum of Art
Self-portrait of Matabe IWASA' (according to legend) (Important Cultural Property) MOA Museum of Art
Ogurihangan Picture Scroll' The Museum of the Imperial Collections, Sannomaru Shozokan
The Tale of Ise, Azusayumi' The Agency for Cultural Affairs
The Tale of Horie Picture Scroll' (an incomplete book of which some part is missing) Kosetsu Museum of Art, Kyoto National Museum, etc.
Narratives of Chinese and Japanese Historical Events' Fukui Fine Arts Museum
Court Lady Enjoying Wayside Chrysanthemums' Yamatane Museum of Art
Folding Screens of Scenes In and Around Kyoto' (Funaki Version), Tokyo National Museum
There is a theory that it is a work produced by 'previous-Matabe schools,' but today the theory that Matabe himself was involved in the production of this work is widely accepted.

[Original Japanese]