Soga Shohaku

July 1st / September 30th

Soga Shōhaku: birth name Miura Sakonjiro (1730–1781) was a prolific and influential Japanese painter of the Edo period. Shōhaku distinguished himself from his contemporaries by preferring the brush style of the Muromachi period, an aesthetic that was already passé 150 years before his birth and helped lead him to be considered one of the “three eccentric” painters of his time.

As a young man, he was a student of Takada Keiho of the prominent Kanō School, which drew upon Chinese techniques and subject matters. His disillusionment with the school led him to appreciate the works of Muromachi era painter Soga Jasoku.

He began to use the earlier style of brushstroke, painting mostly monochromes, despite the fact it had become unfashionable. Through his appreciation of Soga Jasoku he had changed his name to Soga Shōhaku and claimed to be the tenth from that lineage of painters.

Soga Shohaku’s heavy jagged brush strokes, outlandish subject matter, debauch and wild social life lead many of his time to believe he was a mad man but there is a great cloud of mystery surrounding him and much of what is actually known about Shohaku is a matter of debate amongst scholars.