Waves at Matsushima (Matsushima-zu Byobu) (松島図屏風)

Waves at Matsushima ("Matsushima-zu Byobu")
1. A painting on a folding screen by Sotatsu TAWARAYA

2. A painting on a folding screen by Korin OGATA imitating the one described in 1.

Each work is described below.

Sotatsu's Waves at Matsushima

Waves at Matsushima
Waves at Matsushima is a painting on a folding screen by Sotatsu TAWARAYA. It is made of one pair of six-folded screens, with color on gold paper. It is part of the collection at the Freer Gallery of Art. Although it is one of Sotatsu's masterpieces, it was not widely known about until the 1960s because it was exported to the U.S. during the late Meiji Period. It is said that this work would have been designated as a National Treasure if it had been kept in Japan.

It is called 'Waves at Matsushima,' but it is not actually a picture of Matsushima, one of the three most scenic places in Japan. Having discerned that the picture was originally called 'Araiso Byobu (Rough Shoreline),' it is assumed that it is a picture of the shoreline near Sumiyoshi, Osaka.
(The reason why the picture is now called 'Waves at Matsushima' will be explained later.)

Shoan TANI (1589-1644), a wealthy merchant in Sakai, requested the production of this picture and donated it to Shoun-ji Temple in Sakai. The picture was kept in the temple at least until 1902.

This picture shows the rough waves of the impressive golden sea in a dynamic way.

Korin's Waves at Matsushima

Korin OGATA painted Waves at Matsushima by imitating Sotatsu's work of the same title, and he made at least four pictures with the same motif. Today, his most famous one is in the collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which Ernest Fenollosa bought. Korin's works including the one in Boston have been brought overseas, resulting in Korin's worldwide renown.

Korin imitated Sotatsu's Waves at Matsushima, but he composed the picture quite differently. This fact indicates that Korin introduced his own personality to the work while imitating Sotatsu's picture.

The history of the title 'Waves at Matsushima'

As mentioned above, Sotatsu's work used to be called 'Rough Shoreline' instead of 'Waves at Matsushima.'
It became entitled 'Waves at Matsushima' because of Hoitsu SAKAI.

Hoitsu respected Korin as a mentor and made Korin's works famous, but it is said that Hoitsu was unfamiliar with the relation between Sotatsu and Korin, and he didn't know of Sotatsu's 'Fujin Raijin zu' (The Wind and Thunder Gods) which is quite well known today. Therefore, it seems that Hoitsu called Korin's replica 'Waves at Matsushima' either by mistake or because it was a picture of matsu (pines) and shima (island). That is why the title became popular for Korin's works, and gradually Sotatsu's original works came to be called 'Waves at Matsushima' as well.

It seems that Hoitsu was not much interested in 'Waves at Matsushima' and didn't make a replica of Korin's work, while he did imitate 'The Wind and Thunder Gods.'
One theory states that Hoitsu misunderstood 'Waves at Matsushima' to be a picture of pine trees and an island, and thus wasn't interested in the motif.