2010 is the Year of the Tiger, and I like to celebrate these fierce and incredibly
beautiful creatures through the painted scrolls of Itō Jakuchū (1716-1800), a masterful
and innovative Japanese artist of the Edo period. His tigers strike me for their
wonderful combination of elegance, expressiveness and power.
ince there were no tigers in Japan at the time,
these portraits were copied from or inspired by Chinese artworks.
All of the artworks in this post belong to Etsuko and Joe Price, who were responsilbe
for rediscovering Jakuchū and other Edo painters in the 1950s, a time when they were
very little known or valued in Japan and abroad. In 2007 part of their impressive
collection of screens and hanging scrolls toured major Japanese museums, and was
Jakuchū was a practicing Zen Buddhist, and many of his major works were created
for Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines across Japan. In his old age he became a lay monk
at the temple of Sekiho-ji in the outskirts of Kyoto. "In Zen thinking, the tiger represents
a natural power that can be controlled through enlightenment seeking discipline.
In the act of grooming, the tiger suggests a self-intention to move beyond a conflicted
mental state and toward a focus of energy" (from the Smithsonian's exhibition website).