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From Kiso to Kijin: Reconsidering Eccentricity in Edo Painting

Eccentricity, or kisō, is the most popular and influential paradigm in the field of Japanese art history today. The current incarnation of this idea originated with the art historian Tsuji Nobuo (b. 1932), whose 1970 book Lineage of Eccentrics (Kisō no keifu; Fig. 1) identified six Japanese artists—Iwasa Matabei (1578–1650), Kano Sansetsu (1590–1651), Itō Jakuchū (1716–1800), Soga Shōhaku (1730–81), Nagasawa Rosetsu (1754–99) and Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797–1861)—whom Tsuji proposed were paragons of individualism within the otherwise conservative painting establishment of the Edo period (1603–1868). Tsuji’s study has proven highly influential ever since, shaping both scholarly and public understanding of artists such as Jakuchū, whose continued popularity is due in part to his reputation as an eccentric and single-minded painter.

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January/February 2020
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