“Rietberg Museum”

Japan’s best-known tiger

The time is 1786… On one moonless night, Japanese artist Nagasawa Rosetsu painted a huge tiger along with a dragon on the sliding panels of Muryōji Temple in Kushimonto. Descending from a “lineage of eccentrics”, Rosetsu (1754-1799) had samurai ancestors. A dazzling artistic genius who had a taste for sake, he quickly became a sensation in the art circles of the imperial capital of Kyoto, as one of the major disciples of the famous painter Maruyama Ōkyo. Quite a few moons later, today it’s at the Rietberg Museum in Zurich that Nagasawa Rosetsu crops up again, at a major exhibition whose title resounds like a spell: “Ferocious Brush”… Steering this vibrant show are two curators, Khanh Trinh, curator of the Japanese and Korean art department at the Rietberg Museum, here accompanied by Matthew McKelway, professor of Japanese art history at Columbia University, New York, and also director of the Mary Griggs Burke Centre for Japanese Art. And here, you have to admit that results are on a par with Rosetsu’s talent: mind-blowing. Let’s remember that it took three years to prepare the exhibition. While Rosetsu has already been shown in Japan, in 2000, 2011 and 2017, this is the first time that a monographic show on such a scale is being dedicated to him in the West. In total, 55 pieces, paintings and drawings, some of which come from one of Kyoto’s major Zen Buddhism centres, as well as German and American museums. We find kakejikus and other naturalist makimonos, paravents featuring fantastic landscapes, the famous gigantic tiger and dragon on twelve panels, executed in Indian ikon paper… Add to this the tour-de-force identical reconstruction of the spaces of the Muryōji Temple on a 1:1 scale, and you have an incredible overview of the art of Rosetu. A Rosetsu...

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