Japan art and the intriguing Hanabusa Itchō (1652-1724)

Japan art and the intriguing Hanabusa Itchō (1652-1724)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Hanabusa Itchō (1652-1724) was born during the Edo Period. He is known for having a lovely artistic free spirit. Hence, while originally being inspired and taught in the classical Kano style, Itchō would abandon this art form and create his own unique style.

Itchō also adored poetry and was a noted calligrapher. In the realm of art, Kano Yasunobu was his early teacher. While in the field of poetry, he was guided by Matsuo Bashō. Therefore, Itchō was blessed to know such distinguished individuals. 

During his early life, he had relative comfort for this period in Japan because his father was the physician of Lord Ishikawa. Hence, while his father tended to the upper echelons of the Kameyama daimyo, Itchō could focus on high culture and enjoy areas including Ise. 

At the age of 15, he moved to Edo (Tokyo) with his family. This was followed by Itchō being taught art by Yasunobu before being expelled for unknown reasons. However, much about his life remains open for debate because individuals link important later events together. 

Interestingly, Itchō was exiled in 1698 to the island of Miyake-jima. It is reported – but different interpretations exist – that he fell foul of authorities after parodying a concubine of the shōgun. Irrespective of the true reason, his exile lasted until 1710. Therefore, many dark times must have affected his state of mind. 

His style belongs to the literati period of his day tinged with individual traits. 

Overall, Itchō had many ups and downs throughout his life. Indeed, his return from exile was further saddened in the knowledge that family members had parted from this world. However, irrespective of what life threw at Itchō, his creative spark remained undiminished.

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