Jump to content

HASEGAWA TOHAKU: 400th Memorial Retrospective

  • Image of "Pine Trees, By Hasegawa Tohaku, National Treasure, Tokyo National Museum"

    Pine Trees, By Hasegawa Tohaku, National Treasure, Tokyo National Museum

    Japanese Archaeology and Special Exhibition (Heiseikan) Special Exhibition Galleries
    February 23, 2010 (Tue) - March 22, 2010 (Mon)

    The year 2010 marks the 400th memorial of Hasegawa Tohaku (1539-1610), the master painter of the Momoyama period. As the artist of Japanese treasures such as the ink painting Pine Trees (National Treasure, Tokyo National Museum) and the colorful Maple Tree (National Treasure, Chishaku-in Temple), Tohaku rivaled his contemporary Kano Eitoku who reigned over the painting circle of their time. Born in Nanao on the Noto Peninsula, Tohaku started his career under the sobriquet Nobuharu. In his thirties, he moved to the then capital Kyoto and worked on a wide range of themes from Buddhist paintings to portraits to birds and flowers-at times, executing a subtle touch, while at other times, wielding a bold brush. Later, he came to be favored by the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The works Tohaku painted until his death at age 72 preserve their color and force and continue to enchant his viewers even today. The stories of his turbulent life and the episodes which describe his truly human character are also what fascinate us about this unique artist. This major retrospective of Hasegawa Tohaku will cover a wide range of his paintings beginning with his early works, when he went by the sobriquet Harunobu in his hometown of Nanao, to the numerous masterpieces, which he painted in Kyoto under the name Tohaku and which adorned Daitoku-ji and other famous Kyoto temples. Tohaku's masterpieces, which transmit the beat of the Momoyama period, and the human drama that led to their creation will be presented in commemoration of this artist who lived 400 years ago.
General Information
Period Tuesday, February 23-Monday, March 22, 2010
Venue Heiseikan, Tokyo National Museum (Ueno Park)
Hours 9:30 - 17:00
Saturdays, Sundays, Holidays until 18:00
Fridays until 20:00
March 19 - 22, 2010 until 20:00
(Last entry 30 minutes before closing)
Closed Mondays except for March 22.
Admission Adults: 1,500 (1,300/1,200) yen
University students: 1,200 (1,000/900) yen
High school students: 900 (700/600) yen
Junior high school students and under: Free
* Prices shown in ( ) indicate advance / group (more than 20 persons) discount tickets.
* Persons with disabilities are admitted free with one accompanying person each.
* Advance tickets are on sale at the Museum ticket office (during museum hours, 30 minutes before closing hour) and e-Ticket Pia (P-code:688-894), Lawson Ticket (L-code:37500), E-Plus, CN Playguide and other major ticketing agencies until the following dates respectively: Monday, February 22, 2010.
* Advance pair tickets (two admissions, 2000yen) are sold at on sale at the Museum ticket office (during museum hours, 30 minutes before closing hour) and e-Ticket Pia (P-code:688-895), Lawson Ticket (L-code:37500), E-Plus, CN Playguide and other major ticketing agencies until the following dates respectively: Wednesday, December 23, 2009.
Access 10 minutes' walk from JR Ueno Station (Park exit) and Uguisudani Station
15 minutes' walk from Keisei Ueno Station, Tokyo Metro Ueno Station and Tokyo Metro Nezu Station
Organizer Tokyo National Museum, The Mainichi Newspapers, NHK, NHK Promotions
With the Support of Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan
With the Special Sponsorship of OTSUKA KAGU,LTD.
With the Sponsorship of Central Japan Railway Company, TAISEI Corporation, Nissha Printing Co., Ltd., Mizuho Bank, Ltd.
General Inquiries 03-5405-8686 (Hello Dial)
Exhibition Official Website http://www.tohaku400th.jp/
The website has closed with the end of the exhibition.
 Related events (In Japanese)
  Commemorative lecture (application required)
Saturday, February 27, 2010, 13:30 - 16:00, Auditorium, Heiseikan
Title: "Yamato-e Painter, Hasegawa Tohaku: From the Buddhist paintings of the Shinshun years to the interior panel paintings of the Chishakuin"
Lecture by: Matsushima Masato (Curator of Japanese Painting, Tokyo National Museum)

Title: "From Shinshun to Tohaku: On the newly discovered folding screen, Flowers and Birds on Gold Leaf"
Lecture by: Yamamoto Hideo (Curatorial Board, Kyoto National Museum)

Saturday, March 6, 2010, 13:30 - 15:00, Auditorium, Heiseikan
Title: "The New Appeal of Hasegawa Tohaku: Expressions of animals in Tohaku's work"
Lecture by: Kuroda Taizo (Ph.D, Senior Chief Curator, Manager of Curatorial Section, IDEMITSU MUSEUM OF ARTS)
 Next venue
Kyoto National Museum : Saturday, April 10 - Sunday, May 9, 2010
 Highlight of the Exhibition
Discovery of the Century
This work was discovered to have been painted by Tohaku during the survey in preparation for this exhibition. The pine tree, wisteria, and other flora and fauna as well as the flowing waterfall are brilliantly executed in bright colors on gold background. The bark and branches of the pine and the depiction of the birds suggest that Tohaku painted this work under the name Nobuharu around age 40. This discovery signifies that Tohaku was already experienced in painting large formats in bright colors on gold backgrounds prior to the creation of his Chishaku-in masterpieces.
Birds and Flowers
Birds and Flowers
By Hasegawa Tohaku (Nobuharu), Private collection
Colorful, Golden Paintings Dedicated for Rebirth into the Pure Land
Tohaku painted these masterpieces to adorn Shounzen-ji (today Chishaku-in) Temple, which the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi built to memorialize his first child Tsurumaru who prematurely died at age three in 1591. The maple with its powerful trunk stands majestically with its branches extending out like arms. Crimson leaves, fragrant osmanthus, cock's combs, bush clovers and chrysanthemums appear as if gently embracing the central image (symbolizing the young Tsurumaru).
While conscious of the colossal paintings of his rival Kano Eitoku, who executed an enormous tree that nearly protrudes out of the screen, Tohaku dynamically captured nature in a way that cannot be seen in Kano works and instilled it with a lyricism unique to the Hasegawa school.
Maple Tree

Pine Tree and Autumn Plants
Maple Tree (top), Pine Tree and Autumn Plants (bottom)
By Hasegawa Tohaku, ca. 1592, National Treasure, Chishaku-in Temple, Kyoto
One of the Three Large-Scale Death of the Buddha Paintings
Death of the Buddha
Death of the Buddha
By Hasegawa Tohaku, Dated 1599, Important Cultural Property, Honpo-ji Temple Kyoto
The Death of the Buddha painting shown above depicts the scene in which the historic Buddha Sakyamuni enters his final enlightenment (parinirvana). His disciples, followers, various deities and animals gather to mourn his physical death. This powerful painting, including its ornate mounting, measures over ten meters. Upon its completion, Tohaku had it shown at the Imperial court and afterwards donated it to Honpo-ji Temple. The entire scene should be viewed slowly from top to bottom and from left to right.

Prayers for His Family - Death of the Buddha
Tohaku and the priest Nittsu of Honpo-ji Temple had a long and deep friendship. In 1599, Tohaku presented this painting to Nittsu, whom he trusted and relied upon. Later, in 1605, the artist donated the funds for the construction of the Niomon and Honpo-ji's reception hall, and made many other offerings to the temple. Tohaku thus became a major benefactor of Honpo-ji and an influential figure not only as a court painter but also as a Kyoto townsperson.
On the back of the painting appears the names of Nichiren and other Nichiren sect patriarchs, the Honpo-ji founder Nisshin and its successive head priests, as well as Tohaku's grandparents, adoptive parents, and his eldest son Kyuzo, who was anticipated to inherit the Hasegawa school but who died before his father at the young age of 26. Tohaku's deep faith and prayers for his family are perhaps embedded in this painting.
The Allure and Mystery of the National Treasure Pine Trees
Pine Trees Pine Trees

Pine Trees
By Hasegawa Tohaku
National Treasure
Tokyo National Museum
Tohaku's fascinating masterpiece Pine Trees is full of mysteries. Here, the allure of this painting and a few of its mysteries will be introduced.

[Tohaku's Brush Technique and Compositional Strength]
Tohaku captured movement and light using only ink and expressed space with three layers of shading. With his forceful brush, the artist created a sense of stepping back from the painting as one moves towards it. His rough brushwork produced a scene of pine trees emerging dimly in the distance.
The placement of four pine trees is delicately calculated to produce the effect of a refreshing breeze flowing through a grove. The pines standing tall on the screen appear as if extending out of the painting. Those directly in front of the painting will feel as if being pulled into this pine forest. Using merely ink shade and coarse, quick brushstrokes, Tohaku created a scene of pines enveloped in mist in this paramount Japanese ink painting.

[Is it a Completed Work or an Underdrawing?]
Generally, a byobu, or folding screen, consists of panels (surfaces between the folded sections) with five overlapping sheets of paper joined together lengthwise. These seams are usually aligned horizontally and pasted onto a panel. However, the unaligned seams of the paper used for Pine Trees suggest that the paper was meant for drafts and that the painting itself was a sketch.

If this work was a finished product, then it may have been originally a larger painting that was reformatted into screens. The tips of pine branches can be seen at the left end of the left screen, and from there the scene appears to have expanded further to the left.

[The Quality of the Paper and the Ink]
The quality of the paper for these screens is coarser than normal. This reinforces the hypothesis that Pine Trees was an underdrawing. However, the ink used is lustrous and of the highest quality, making it difficult to reach a conclusive decision.

[What Kind of Brush Did Tohaku Use?]
Exactly what kind of brush or utensil Tohaku used to execute the rough pine needles is unknown. Several theories have been suggested: the artist may have used a renpitsu (a single brush made of several brushes bound together), a brush made of straw, or a stiff brush generally used to decorate lacquerware with maki-e (sprinkled metal design).

[What Scenery was Being Painted?]
The pines that stand on the shores of the Noto Peninsula, Tohaku's birthplace, may have been the inspiration for Pine Trees. Or perhaps the pines come from an imagined place? Those who see the screens, however, often associate them with the evocative scenery of Ama-no-hashidate, Miho no Matsubara, and the landscape in their mind's eye.

[From Where was This Scene Viewed?]
This work captures a view at the foot of a distant snowcapped mountain. Many early Japanese paintings of pines near a bay have an expansive body of water at the center of their composition. Paintings of the shore generally capture the scenery from the other direction.

[The Time of the Pines]
A snowcapped mountain is depicted dimly in the distance. Perhaps the season is late autumn approaching winter. Or could it be snow thawing in early spring? It feels like morning with its cool air flowing through the pines surrounded by mist.

[The Seals that were Stamped Afterwards]
The seals stamped on the screens are unlike the seals seen on Tohaku's other works. It is thought that someone stamped them at a later time and place.

[The Placement of the Screens]
Arranging a pair of screens according to the placement of their seals - that is, the seals of the left screen appear on the far left corner and of the right screen on the far right - is the general placement for the screens. Pine Trees is also usually exhibited in this way, however, the trees mysteriously extend outwards even when the left and right screens are switched.