Soga Shōhaku (1730-1781)
Ink on paper
L: 65.3cm H: 123cm
Jurōjin is a legendary Taoism figure in China, it is said that he existed in Song dynasty. He became, in Japan, one of the Seven Deities of Good Fortune (七福神Shichi fuku-jin) who gives long life. His attributes are a deer, a Chinese fan, and a cane with a paper scroll. He is usually depicted having long head and in a Chinese costume, as he originates in China.
This burlesque ink painting depicts Jurōjin. The cheeky expression of his face proves the playfulness of the author: Soga Shōhaku.
Shōhaku was famous for being a poor vagabond painter and his eccentric behaviour. He did not fawn on power and took proud in his artworks. It is said that once Shōhaku said that “Ask me if you want Ga (a painting), ask Maruyama Mondo (Ōkyo) if you want Ezu (a sketch).” This is usually understood that his jealousy to his rival Maruyama Ōkyo who was one of the pioneer of sketching nature directly. What is interesting is, however, that Shōhaku distinguished painting and sketch. It is reflecting two rules of the six rules of Chinese painting; “alive spirit (ki’in sēdō)” and “resemblance (ōbutsu shōkē)”, and he was saying that he was the Artist who was able to depict the spirit in painting and Artist should be as such.
His strong and extravagant brush strokes and the comic-like figure in this painting indicate his jest. He named himself referring to a master painter Soga Dasoku (?-1483) whose style was also eccentric and grotesque. In the era of Maruyama Ōkyo, his overwhelming self-consciousness as an outstanding painter overflew. His stamp “Dasoku-ken Shōhaku” clearly says that “I am on the ancient great artists’ line and I am the one of them”.