Iwasa Matabei and Japan art (1578-1650)

Iwasa Matabei and Japan art (1578-1650)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Iwasa Matabei (1578-1650) was born during the warring period of sixteenth-century Japan. Eventually, this culminated in the Edo Period (Tokugawa Period) that began in 1603 and was replaced by the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

Power concentration was developed under Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598), and Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616). Indeed, his father was caught up in the intrigues and power dynamics of the day. Therefore, from being loyal to Oda Nobunaga under the auspices of Ikeda Katsumasa (Ikeda clan of Settsu Province) to being deemed a traitor by Nobunaga.

The MOA Museum of Art says, “A seventeenth-century artist, Iwasa Matabei (1578–1650, aka Katsumochi), enjoyed a successful career as a painter, famous for his characteristic drawing of people with roundish, elongated heads and the unique combination of Japanese and Chinese painting styles. Dubbed “Ukiyo-Matabei,” he was regarded as the father of the ukiyoe culture that flourished later. However, he was also an elusive figure despite his popularity.”

In the art piece above, The Met Museum says, “Some of the leaves feature the seal of the painter Iwasa Matabei, who broke away from the orthodoxy of the Kano and Tosa studios to create his own distinctive style of depicting the human figure. For instance, here he has rendered the aged monk with a wrinkled forehead, droopy eyes, sagging cheeks, and downturned mouth that convey melancholy—a far cry from the stylized poet portraits of previous centuries. Matabei’s poet portraits are expressive and compelling. Similarly impressive is the detailing of the crystal Buddhist rosary beads, the archbishop’s silk damask cloak and kesa surplice.”

Overall, he was a free spirit. He also understood the never-ending dynamics of society during his time on this earth. Therefore, his delightful elaborate brush strokes provide a wealth of detail. 

https://www.moaart.or.jp/en/?event=matabei – Lovely art of Iwasa Matabei

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/853202

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