Itō Jakuchū

Painter & Printmaker

Itō Jakuchū (2 March 1716 – 27 October 1800) was a Japanese painter of the mid-Edo period when Japan had closed its doors to the outside world. Many of his paintings concern traditionally Japanese subjects, particularly chickens and other birds. Many of his otherwise traditional works display a great degree of experimentation with perspective, and with other very modern stylistic elements.

Compared to Soga Shōhaku and other exemplars of the mid-Edo period eccentric painters, Jakuchū is said to have been very calm, restrained, and professional. He held strong ties to Zen Buddhist ideals, and was considered a lay brother; but he was also keenly aware of his role within a Kyoto society that was becoming increasingly commercial.

His work was centred around wildlife, birds, mythology and fauna. Jakuchū also experimented with a number of forms of printing, most of them using woodblocks. But occasionally he would use stencils or other methods to produce different effects. Jakuchū's painting style is influenced by Shen Nanping (Shen Quan c. 1682–1760). His crane subjects prove this, being part of traditional Japanese legacy, but also the neutral background and the ‘cut’ given to the scene composition, with always a careful and detailed flora and fauna decorative style of painting.