Enigmas of Shōrin-zu Screens by Hasegawa Tōhaku

Lecture on Tuesday, May 18, 2010, 6 pm, Room 311

Hiroyuki Suzuki, Tokyo Gakugei University

Enigmas of Shōrin-zu Screens by Hasegawa Tōhaku

AbstractShōrin-zu Screens by Hasegawa Tōhaku

Enigmas sometimes shade the true vision of an artwork but are often inseparable from its evaluation as a masterpiece. Once recognized, enigmas endow an artwork with an ideological power which is transmitted to the viewer. This power-making process is observed in the present-day enthusiastic popularity of Shōrin-zu (Pine Trees), a pair of six-fold screens by Hasegawa Tōhaku (1539-1610).

Although no historian of Japanese art has ever cast doubt about the authenticity of this screen painting, art historians frequently point out incomprehensible qualities of the work.

Takeda Tsuneo, an expert in the art history of the Momoyama period, was the first to surmise that the screen painting was probably a fragment of a full sized draft composing a set of wall paintings which originally decorated the interior of a room. If the original wall painting is logically reconstructed from the present screens, then the viewer will find a highly original composition, much different from that of the present screens, but an orthodox one compared to the style of the period. Reluctance to accept a reasonable reconstruction of the original may reflect the desire of the viewer to decline historicity of the artwork. Instead, the viewer is inclined to unreasonable imaginations to which he is urged by the enigmatic appearance of a masterpiece.


Hiroyuki Suzuki

is professor of art history at Tokyo Gakugei University and author of Kōkoka tachi no 19 seiki: Bakumatsu Meiji ni okeru mono no arukeorogii (19th-Century Antiquarians: The Archaeology of Objects during the Late Edo through Early Meiji Periods), 2003, Kanō Hideyori hitsu ‘Takao kanpū zu byōbu’: Kioku no katachi (‘Maple Viewing at Takao’ by Kanō Hideyori: The Shape of Memory), 1994, and Eitoku Tōhaku (Eitoku and Tōhaku), Meihō Nihon no bijutsu (Treasures of Japanese art), vol. 17, 1983. He is currently working on the historiography of Japanese art history in the early Meiji period.


In addition, Prof. Suzuki will give a talk on The Buddha of Kamakura and ‚Modernization‘ of Buddhist Statuary in the Meiji Period within the lecture series Multi-centred Modernisms - Reconfiguring Asian Art of the Twentieth and Twenty First Centuries on Monday, May 17, 2010, 6 pm in room 212, Karl-Jaspers-Centre.

Verantwortlich: SH
Letzte Änderung: 28.02.2012
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