Tsuji Kako (1870-1931)
Item number: T-3386
Size: H 84.6" x W 22.9" (215 x 58.2 cm)
Era: Taisho era (1912-26)
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on paper Signature, painting: Kakō 華香 Seal, painting: Kakō 華香 Box inscription, top: »Painting of Bodhidharma« 菩提達磨図 Box inscription, signature and seal inside: »Title by Kakō« 華香題 and Shishun 子春 This striking portrait of the First Patriarch of Buddhism, Bodhidharma (Japanese: Daruma) was painted by the noted Nihonga artist Kakō in the Taishō period. The body and robe of the patriarch are painted with strokes of abstracted repetitions, varying only in density. The heavy layering of color on Daruma’s chest has resulted in an interesting mottling of the surface, giving a realistic touch. Kakō created a series of Daruma portraits in the 1910’s1; as in the other extant examples, there is also here an emphasis on the chest and the general hairiness of the Indian patriarch.2 One may well ask why a Nihonga artist would paint a series of Daruma images, a topic one would rather expect from Zen monks. One reason is Kakō’s strong belief in Zen Buddhism, which is reflected in the thirty years of religious training he underwent with the monk Mokurai (1854 –1930), a Zen Buddhist abbot of the Kenninji Temple in Kyoto.3 Further, the historical and textual roots of Buddhism were an important theme for the intellectuals of the Taishō period. This was the time of the compilation and publication of the great Taishō shinshū Daizōkyō, a monumental work of Buddhist scholarship which is still in use across the world. Therefore an intellectual interest in Buddhism and in the founder, Daruma, may also have been a reason for the many portraits. Kakō was known for his unusual cutting-edge images and succeeds, more than almost any other Japanese artist of his time, in combining Japanese painting tradition with modernist ideas; here, an old tradition of drawing portraits of Daruma is updated by the artist.4 For an example of his modernist painting in a screen format, see our 2009 publication, item 3. In the past decade, awareness of the artist has grown dramatically in the West and Kakō is now well represented in the museums and collections of the Western world.