牡丹に竹図 - Peony and Bamboo by a Rock, Metropolitan Museum of Art
|Other names||Tokuyama Gyokuran|
|Occupation||Painter, calligrapher, and poet|
Ike no Taiga
(m. 1746; died 1776)
Gyokuran was born of a decade long affair between her mother, Yuri, and a high ranking retainer of the ruling Tokugawa shogun. Her parents gave her the birth name Machi (町). As a child, she was given the art-name Gyokuran, meaning "Jewel Waves," most likely by her painting teacher Yanagisawa Kien (1707–1758). Gyokuran married fellow artist Ike no Taiga, and she is best known by her married name Ike Gyokuran. Her surname before marriage was Tokuyama, and she is also known as Tokuyama Gyokuran.
Early life and education
Like her mother, Machi composed waka poetry, but excelled in painting and Calligraphy. Gyokuran began to learn to paint at an early age under famous literati painter Yanagisawa Kien, who was a regular at her mother's teahouse. It is likely that he was the one to introduce her to Ike no Taiga, who became her teacher.
Gyokuran's husband Taiga taught her the painting style of the nanga (Southern painting) movement, a Japanese version of a Chinese style. Gyokuran, in turn, taught her husband poetry in the Japanese waka style, in which she was proficient.
The couple were renowned for their eccentricity. They created art together, mutually influencing each other, and were also known to play music together for leisure, as equals. This was highly unusual in a country where women were still widely considered inferior to men. It is noted that Gyokuran did not shave her eyebrows, as was customary for married women at the time.
Career and impact
Gyokuran painted folding screens and sliding doors, handheld scrolls, hanging scrolls, and fan paintings. "It was exceptionally rare for women in 18th century Japan to be painters," according to Anne d’Harnoncourt, director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Gyokuran and her husband Taiga dedicated themselves to making art, living on little money, and sometimes collaborating on art pieces. She lived with Taiga in a small studio next to the Gion shrine in Kyoto. Gyokuran created folding screens, handheld scrolls, hanging scrolls, and fan paintings. She also often painted small scenes, on which she inscribed her poems in calligraphy.
In 1910, her verses were printed alongside a woodblock print of the Matsuya teahouse at the Gion Shrine in the Gion sanjo kashū (Poem Collection of the Three Women of Gion).
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- Phaidon Editors (2019). Great women artists. Phaidon Press. p. 167. ISBN 0714878774.
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- Fischer, Felice (2007). Ike Taiga and Tokuyama Gyokuran: Japanese Masters of the Brush. Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia Museum of Art. p. 33. ISBN 978-0-87633-198-9.
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- Villarreal, Ignacio. "Ike Taiga and Tokuyama Gyokuran". artdaily.com. Retrieved 2016-03-05.
- Addiss, Stephen (1990). "The Three Women of Gion". In Weidner, Marsha (ed.). Flowering in the Shadows: Women in the History of Chinese and Japanese Painting. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. p. 253. ISBN 0824811496.