There’s a fabulous exhibition on at Asia House this week and I really think you should find the time to go and see it soon as it’s only on for five days, ending this Saturday. It’s a show of works by Ito Jakuchu who was born in Kyoto nearly three hundred years ago. Jakuchu specialised in paintings of domestic animals, particularly chickens, and there are plenty of them on show at Asia House, painted with a flair and simplicity of line that is breathtaking.
Jakuchu was the first son of a family of vegetable wholesalers in Kyoto. At twenty three he took over the family business but handed it on to his younger brother when he was forty to give himself more time to paint. He built a studio on the bank of the Kamo River and became part of the intellectual and artistic community. He was strongly religious and towards the end of his life retired to live in a temple on the outskirts of Kyoto where he continued to paint until his death at the age of eighty five.
The Asia House Exhibition shows paintings from the Hosomi Museum in Kyoto in high resolution reproduction. It opens with the wonderful humourous screen shown at the top of this post. The cocks and hens seem to dance with life.
This depiction of a rooster in the snow is Jakuchu’s earliest known painting, created in his early thirties when he was still working in the family business. It’s actually more representative of Jakuchu’s work with it’s strong use of colour and pattern than most of the pictures in the show which concentrates more on his use of ink and line.
Jakuchu painted this his mouse’s wedding ceremony with its charming drunken mice, when he was eighty one.
I loved this late arrival, hanging on to his sake cup while being dragged along by his tail.
The rest of the party carry on drinking, apart from one who goes to greet the latecomers.
This combination of snake-gourd and insects apparently shows eleven different insects, though I’m not sure I’ve captured them all in this detail from the painting. I counted five – maybe you can do better.
Jakuchu makes a contrast between the puppy and broom in this picture by outlining the puppy with thin, dry lines to portray the softness of its coat and painting the broom with wet lines and ink bleeding effects.
These prawns look far too full of life to eat.
The exhibition is free and is open 10 am to 5:30 pm daily until Saturday 15th March. There’ll be a symposium on Saturday at 2 pm with speakers from the V&A and British Museum among others. Asia House is on New Cavendish St, close to the BBC building.