Japan art and the individualism of Nagasawa Rosetsu (1754-1799)

Japan art and the individualism of Nagasawa Rosetsu (1754-1799)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Nagasawa Rosetsu (1754-1799) lived during the Edo Period. Various opinions exist concerning his background. However, irrespective of this, Rosetsu was blessed with an independent artistic spirit.

He felt deep tragedy throughout his adult life. This concerns the deaths of his four children. Therefore, his world and religious view – and the suffering this caused – impacted his art.

It is speculated that he was born into a low-ranking samurai family in the environs of Kyoto. In time, he moved to Kyoto and studied under Maruyama Ōkyo (1733-1795). However, different artistic opinions meant that Rosetsu broke ties with Ōkyo.

Luckily, in view of the tragedy of losing four children to early deaths, he found artistic patronage under a feudal lord. Hence, he was commissioned to produce art for several Buddhist temples. This provided him with economic breathing space and he could focus on his artistic free spirit.

Unlike modern Japan, where adoption is not so common, Rosetsu adopted Nagasawa Roshū. Hence, Roshū, his artistic pupil, brought great solace to Rosetsu. Indeed, his pupil and children are buried in the same cemetery in Kyoto with Rosetsu.

Rosetsu produced many stunning art pieces. Therefore, his individualism and innovation – along with admiring Chinese art and culture – led to many stunning art pieces.

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