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The Three Master Calligraphers of the Kan'ei Era

The Three Master Calligraphers of the Kan'ei Era / Japanese Gallery (Honkan) Room T2   October 10, 2007 (Wed) - November 18, 2007 (Sun)

 Image of "Poetry by Bai Letian, By Shokado Shojo, Edo period, 17th century" 
Poetry by Bai Letian, By Shokado Shojo, Edo period, 17th century

Konoe Nobutada (1565-1614), Hon'ami Koetsu (1558-1637), and Shokado Shojo (1584-1639) are regarded as the first pre-modern calligraphers in the history of Japanese calligraphy and were later called the three master calligraphers of the Kan'ei era (1624-1644).

While the three masters based their styles on the medieval calligraphy that stressed on the learning of forms and traditional manners, they innovated substantially by studying works dating from the Heian period (794-1192). Their established styles were refined during the Momoyama period (1573-1603) and reflected the general trends.

Konoe Nobutada first learned the Jimyoin school style. He then studied calligraphy from the Heian period and works by Fujiwara no Teika (1162-1241), eventually creating his own style, which culminated in large character works written directly on folding screens.

Hon'ami Koetsu learned from calligraphy of the Heian period, such as segments of the Kokin Waka Shu poetry anthology. He also studied the paper used for ancient calligraphy to develop paper decoration techniques.

Shokado Shojo studied the style of the priest Kukai (774-835), known as the Daishi style, in addition to Heian period calligraphy. He was also active as a cultured man of the Kan'ei era, evidenced by an appraisal comment on the decorated sutra from the late Heian period known as "Chikubujima kyo" (coll. Tokyo National Museum, National Treasure) and the name of a tea powder spoon he write on its case. He made efforts to teach his calligraphy to his students, and the Shokado school prospered for a long time.

If we dare to view Japanese calligraphy as records or artistic works, medieval calligraphy had a distinct nature, while pre-modern calligraphy showed a conspicuous inclination to artistic expression. The three master calligraphers of the Kan'ei era were active at a vital time, when the nature of calligraphy changed from medieval to pre-modern.

 Major works in this exhibition

* Works listed below are in the TNM Collection unless otherwise indicated.
Poems By Konoe Nobutada, Azuchi-Momoyama period, 17th century
Poetry by Bai Letian, By Shokado Shojo, Edo period, 17th century
Scroll of Waka Poetry, By Hon'ami Koetsu, Azuchi-Momoyama period, 17th century
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