The exhibition, organized by Felice Fischer, the Philadelphia museumâ™s longtime curator of Japanese art, with Kyoko Kinoshita, assistant curator, includes many important loans from Japanese museums â” among them several works designated as national treasures â” and is accompanied by an excellent and hefty catalog. Taigaâ™s renown, along with the record-keeping traditions of Japan and the affectionate esteem in which he was held by his fellow artists and students, means that a lot is known about his life, travels, friendships and dealings.
Versed in Chinese painting and poetry of all periods, but especially that of the literati artists of the Ming and Qing dynasties; familiar with the reigning schools of official Japanese art; inculcated with Neo-Confucian thought and interested in Daoism and Buddhism, Taiga was exceptionally erudite but not an aesthete; his work often has a visceral directness. He infused his copies of Chinese landscape paintings with a sense of reality gained from ext
In Japan, When Word Was Wed to Image
The 18th-century painter and calligrapher Ike Taiga was something like the Pablo Picasso of Japan. The comparison, while superficial, is hard to resist as you wade into the dazzling, almost daunting retrospective of Taigaâ™s work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and begin to absorb the many sides of his achievement.
The show is the first major survey of Taigaâ™s work in the United States, and it is exhilarating in its profusion, range and almost ferocious vitality. Spanning four decades with nearly 200 works, it vividly conveys the trajectory of an artist who, like Picasso, began as a child prodigy and never paused or stopped experimenting. Taiga became a central figure in the art of 18th-century Japan, as an innovative proponent of nanga painting â” which was patterned after the work of the self-taught literati painters of southern China and nearly always depicted landscapes â” and as a synthesizer of Japanese traditions.