Kita: The Last Tosa
Iwasa Katsumochi Matabei (1578-1650) is one of the most controversial figures in Japanese art history. Was he, as he asserted, the last Tosa (the Yamato-e school), or the founder of Ukiyo-e, the style of painting associated with the urban commoner class? This text discusses both arguments.
entrusted to them as a child. According to Tsuji, there is independent con¤rmation of the relationship between Naomasu and the Kanaya family in the text Kokujisôki.7 The various paintings of the Kanaya screens bear Matabei’s Katsumochi and hekishôkyû seals. These marks of identi¤cation, in combination with the excellent provenance of the paintings, have led to their being almost universally accepted as authentic. They have now stood the test of time for nearly seventy years, and as a result, no
these reasons, a book on Matabei is a most worthy addition to the Western tradition of monographs on Japanese art.13 From Shadow to Substance: Matabei and This Book If Matabei is a worthwhile subject of study, he is not an easy subject. Any new publication on him must deal with the controversy that has raged over him since the 1930s. That debate has polarized thinking on Matabei to the point where reconciling the opposing interpretations of him presents formidable dif¤culties. The controversy
understanding of Matabei, which is a new one, developed out of that of Narazaki Muneshige, on the one hand, and Tsuji Nobuo, on the other. Narazaki and Tsuji are the current representatives of the opposed camps of scholars that developed in the debate over Matabei. I suggest that each saw this artist differently, but that their work contains more than enough common ground within it to reconcile their differences. To Narazaki, Matabei was essentially a court painter with some commoner elements in
machishu art. More to the point, we establish Matabei thereby as, not an ecletic painter who drew any and all subjects, nor a commercial artist who merely painted what would sell, nor an eccentric whose reasons for drawing what he did are too obscure to be meaningfully discussed, but rather as a man of vision, one who portrayed the world from a very speci¤c viewpoint—that of the machishu. Such a view of Matabei not only better explains the facts of his life, but also increases his stature in the
Kyoto, especially since he claimed so insistently in his travel diary to be a “man of the capital” (miyako bito). But the tale of Matabei’s dramatic rescue from Itami Castle seems suspiciously romantic, and in light of the Record’s tendency to exaggerate, it is hard to believe that things happened just that way. Yet the possibility that Matabei spent some time in the Kyoto Hongan-ji cannot be dismissed out of hand because of the woman who may have been his mother. Tsuji believes that the