Tawaraya Sotatsu (俵屋宗達)

Sotatsu TAWARAYA (date of birth and death unknown, active between 1596 and 1644) was a painter during the early Edo Period. He was commonly called Sotatsu NONOMURA. Among his pseudonyms he was called Inen, Taiseiken and others.


Sotatsu was a great early modern period painter, ranked with Korin OGATA. Despite his name recognition and the huge influence he left on his successors, much about his life history is unclear and his date of birth and death are still unknown. It seems he had a studio called Tawaraya where he mainly painted pictures on folding fans. Sotatsu was not just a fan painter, but also well known for his painting--so much so that the Imperial family requested his work. He also painted pictures on the books written by top-ranking cultural figures of the time such as Mitsuhiro KARASUMARU and Koetsu HONAMI. There is no doubt that he was considered one of the top painters of the period--from that fact he was given the rank of Hokyo (rank or title originally given to men and women in the Buddhist order, which was later also granted to artists) in 1630, which, at the time, was extremely rare. He is thought to have been involved in the Heike-nokyo, Sutras Dedication by the Taira Family, which was held in May of 1602.

Sotatsu is considered to be an artist who was modeled by Korin and the founder of the Rin school of art; however, there was not a high general opinion of his work through to the Meiji Period (to July 1912), with Korin's paintings being considered to be of a higher grade. For this reason, many of his works, including his famous Matsushima-zu Byobu (a folding screen: Waves at Matsushima) were exported overseas. During the Taisho Period (July 30, 1912-December 25, 1926) his works were reexamined and currently his works are considered to be superior to Korin's. His Fujin Raijin-zu (Wind God and Thunder God Screens) and three other works are designated as National Treasures.

Other than his famous huge decorative screen painting Wind God and Thunder God, he has some works in water ink. Sotatsu's famous water ink work Renchi Suikin-zu (Waterfowl in Lotus Pond) was drawn using the Tarashikomi technique--a technique that achieves shading through the pooling of successive layers of partially dried pigment for a coincidental effect.

National Treasures

Fujin Raijin-zu (Wind God and Thunder God Screens) - Kennin-ji Temple (Entrusted to Kyoto National Museum)

Renchi Suikin-zu (Waterfowl in Lotus Pond) - Tokyo National Museum

Genji Monogatari Sekiya Oyobi Miotsukushi-zu (Painting of the chapters Sekiya and Miotsukushi from The Tale of Genji) (1631) - Seikado Bunko Art Museum

Important Cultural Properties

Yogen-in Fusuma-e (painting on the sliding partitions at Yogen-in Temple) and Sugido-e (painting on cedar-board doors) - Toge-in Temple

Saigyo Hoshi Gyojo Ekotoba - Idemitsu Museum of Arts

Private Collections

Bugaku-zu Byobu (folding screen with a picture of people dancing) - Daigo-ji Temple

Rogan-zu Tsuitate (screen with picture of wild goose and reeds) - Daigo-ji Temple

Godai-ji Temple Sanpo-in Senmen Harimaze Byobu (folding screen pasted with painted fans) - Sanpo-in subtemple of Godai-ji Temple

Kin-gin Dei Tsuru-zu Shita-e Waka Kan (poem scroll with underpainting of cranes) - Kyoto National Museum

Kin-gin Dei Shiki Soka-zu Shita-e Waka Kan (poem scroll with underpainting of plants of the four seasons) - Hatakeyama Memorial Museum of Fine Art

Tsuta no Hosomichi-zu Byobu (Narrow Ivy Road on folding screen) - Jotenkaku Museum

Gyu-zu (Picture of a cow) - Chomyo-ji Temple (Entrusted to Kyoto National Museum)


Matsushima-zu Byobu (scenery of Matsushima on folding screen) - Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC