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Tawaraya Sōtatsu



Tawaraya Sōtatsu was born around 1570 in Japan, possibly in Noto, to a prosperous family of merchants. He began his artistic career around 1600 in Kyoto, likely studying under the painter Sumiyoshi Jokei. While his family surname may have been Nonomura, he referred to himself by Tawaraya, probably in reference to work with the Tawaraya weaving factory, that produced popular Chinese-style fans and textiles, early in his career. During this period, Tawaraya also worked closely with Hon’ami Kōetsu. The two men were likely related by marriage. Their collaborative scroll paintings included Tawaraya’s painted decorative designs in silver and gold alongside Hon’ami’s calligraphy. Around 1621, the Yōgen-in Temple in Kyoto commissioned Tawaraya to paint sliding doors. As his works are undated and there are few known documents referencing Tawaraya, because he did not come from nobility or belong to any officially recognized painting schools, a chronology of Tawaraya’s career is difficult to determine. He likely produced his most famous works in the 1620s, including the byōbu folding screens “Wind God and Thunder God” and a 6-paneled painting of The Tale of Genji, both deemed National Treasures by Japanese law. In 1630, he received the status of hokkyō, the highest honorary title granted to Buddhist artists by religious authorities. Artists who adopted the style of Tawaraya and Hon’ami, including the brothers Ogata Kōrin and Kenzan, Tawaraya’s students, and those who worked at Hon’ami’s artists’ colony, are considered as members of the Rinpa painting school. By 1639, Kitagawa Sōsetsu, one of Tawaraya’s most talented students, took over Tawaraya’s workshop. Tawaraya Sōtatsu died around 1640.

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