Soga Shohaku (曾我蕭白)

Shohaku SOGA (1730 - January 30, 1781) was a painter in the Edo period.
He called himself Jasokuken

Shohaku was born in 1730 in Kyoto. Very few documents about the life of Shohaku are available and much remains unknown.
Since many of his works remain in the Ise region, it used to be thought that Shohaku was from Ise, but recent research has revealed that he was born to a Kyoto merchant with a surname of Miura, who owned a store named 'Tanbaya.'
The grave of Shohaku and his family and his major work "Kanzan Jittoku-zu" (picture of the monks Kanzan and Jittoku) is located at Kosho-ji Temple, in Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto City.

It has long been said that Shohaku studied under Keiho TAKADA but since there are no records of Shohaku in the student list in "Keiho Gafu" or any other substantiating documents, some argue that he did not. According to the leading expert on Keiho TAKADA, Ms. Yumiko KUNIGA (Chief Curator of The Museum of Modern Art, Shiga), however, Shohaku was using a technique characteristic of TAKADA Keiho and his students and thus must at least have studied the painting style of Keiho TAKADA. Shohaku claimed to follow the painting style of Jasoku SOGA, a painter from the Muromachi period, but the Soga school painting style had ceased to exist by that time.

About his Work
Only few of Shohaku's works can be dated but it is known that he was stayed in Ise region on two occasions; around when he was 29 and 35 years of age. His major works such as "Gunsen-zu" (Immortals) and "Kyu Nagashima-ke Fusuma-e" (sliding partitions formerly at the Nagashima household) are thought to have been painted during his second stay in Ise.

Shohaku is characterized by his ability to paint details with meticulous and painstaking precision and to capture contrasting movement in an accurate yet daring way. The bold sense of space in his compositions and the vivid colors, which he created independently after studying the properties of various pigments, together generate a powerful volatity that both attracts and repels. Paintings by Shohaku, who was already referred to as a 'maverick' or 'mad' painter in the art history of the Edo period, dealt with traditional subjects such as hermits, Karajishi (Chinese lions) and Chinese fables, but the way they were presented was unconventional and daring, with ugly and comical subjects that jangle the nerves and cannot fail to make strong impression.

From the Meiji period onwards, Shohaku was not highly rated but he was featured in series of articles called 'Kiso no Keifu' (Lineage of Bizarre) run in "Bijutsu Techo" in the 1970's and this triggered renewed public interest in Shohaku as an individualistic painter in the Edo period.

Some of the works of Tadanori YOKOO were painted based on those of Shohaku. Tadanori YOKOO painted "Kesareta Kioku" (Erased memories) after seeing "Gunsen-zu" and "Niga Byakudo-zu" (White path to paradise across two rivers) after being inspired by "Sessen Doji-zu" (Boy in snowy mountains, which depicts Buddha Shakamuni in austerity in the Himalayas).

Major Works
Kyu Nagashima-ke Fusuma-e (Mie Prefectural Art Museum), designated as an important cultural property
Kanzan Jittoku-zu (Kousho-ji Temple, Kyoto) designated as an important cultural property, on loan to the Kyoto National Museum
Karajishi-zu (picture of Chinese lions) (Choden-ji Temple, Mie), designated as an important cultural property
Gunsen-zu (Imperial Household Agency), designated as an important cultural property
Rokaku Sansui-zu Byobu (folding screen with painting of landscape and pavilion) (Omi-jingu Shrine) designated as an important cultural property
Bijin-zu (picture of a beautiful woman) (Nara Prefectural Museum of Art)
Sessen Doji-zu (Keisho-ji Temple)
Rin Nasei-zu Byobu (folding screen with picture of poet, Rin Nasei, or Lin Ho-ching in Chinese) (Mie Prefectural Art Museum)

[Original Japanese]