Tosa Mitsunobu (1434-1525) and Japanese art

Tosa Mitsunobu (1434-1525) and Japanese art

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The esteemed artist Tosa Mitsunobu (1434-1525) was born in the fifteenth century. Mitsunobu is the founding father of the art school of Tosa. This art school would bless Japan until the dying days of the Edo Period. 

Tobu Mitsunobu, Tosa Mitsunaga, and Tosa Mitsuoki are collectively called ‘The Three Brushes. Hence, after Mitsunobu established the art school of Tosa with the Imperial Court, the title of founding father belongs to him.

In the above art piece (Bamboo in the Four Seasons) the Met Museum says, “The traditional Chinese subject of bamboo is given a distinctly Japanese treatment in this rendition of the four seasons. Stands of mature bamboo, leafy young bamboo plants, and tapering bamboo shoots are loosely grouped across the surface of this pair of screens, with violets and shepherd’s purse clustered near the bases of taller stalks. Beginning on the right, the seasons progress from spring to winter, although young bamboo branches, bowing as though caught in a breeze, unify the composition.”

The elements of space are also noticeable by Mitsunobu. Thus no foilage of dense clumps can be found in this art piece. The Met Museum also alludes to the various bamboo species providing a special decorative effect on the senses outside of art.

Late in his life, Mitsunobu became the chief artist in 1518 to the Ashikaga shoguns. This patronage – along with Mitsuoki (1617-1691) during the early Edo Period – enabled long-lasting support for the art school of Tosa.


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