Japanese artist of Edo Period: Ronin to art

Japanese artist of Edo Period: Ronin to art

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Isoda Koryûsai (1735-1790) lived life to the full. His life entailed being a ronin during the Edo Period to turning to art. Hence, he witnessed a very diverse world throughout his life. 

Initially, he was a samurai and served the Tsuchiya clan until the leader passed away from this world. After the demise of his feudal lord, he naturally became a ronin. Therefore, he drifted until taking solace in the world of art.

The Portland Museum says, “Isoda Koryûsai was an artist of samurai origin who first appeared in the record as a print designer in 1769, when Harunobu was at the height of his popularity and influence. In a recent study, Allen Hockley argues that Koryûsai was Harunobu’s pupil and suddenly found himself in demand after his teacher’s death in 1770, when publishers were eager for someone to continue in Harunobu’s style. Koryûsai’s early works are often directly inspired by Harunobu’s compositions and figure types, although he would soon evolve a distinct style.”

In this art piece, the focus is on Koryûsai’s art of nature. This is a far cry from much of his life – from samurai to the sexual entertainment districts he depicted. Therefore, these images of nature provide a glimpse into a different angle of his art and his internal soul.

The MET Museum says, “His early work reflected Harunobu’s wistful and romantically idealized figures. Later in his career, he made a bold series of prints depicting the lavish spring fashions of the demimonde.”

Koryûsai is overlooked compared with other Japanese artists of the same period. However, his unique upbringing – and the ronin angle – provide greater reasoning and insights into the world he highlighted through the prism of art.

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