Iwasa Matabei

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Self-portrait, unusually early for Japanese art, said to have been painted as he was dying in 1650

Iwasa Matabei (Japanese: 岩佐 又兵衛, translit. Iwasa Matabē; original name Araki Katsumochi [1] 1578 – July 20, 1650) was a Japanese artist of the early Tokugawa period (1603–1867),[2] who specialized in genre scenes of historical events and illustrations of classical Chinese and Japanese literature, as well as portraits. He was the son of Araki Murashige, a prominent daimyō of the Sengoku period who had been made to commit suicide, leaving Matabei to be raised with his mother's family name, Iwasa.[3][4] Matabei's work was noted for its distinctive figures, with large heads and delicately drawn features, and he was effective both in colour and monochrome ink-wash painting, using an individual brush technique combining Tosa and Kanō elements.[5]

Although trained by Kanō Naizen of the Kanō school, he was more influenced by the traditions of the Tosa school, and signed a late series of portraits of the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals (1640) commissioned by the shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu for a temple as "the artist Matabei of the later current from Tosa Mitsunobu".[6] His work is often regarded as a major influence on the developing ukiyo-e school of painting, which is possibly because of confusion with a ukiyo-e artist character with the same name (Ōtsu no Matabei) in a play by Chikamatsu. Also, he used often to be attributed as the painter of a famous early ukiyo-e screen known as the Hikone screen, but this is now considered incorrect.[7] In fact his "patrons ... were so high in the social hierarchy that it is hard to believe that Matabei could have created the Ukiyo-e tradition",[attribution needed] and he is better regarded as a "great independent artist of the Tosa tradition".[attribution needed][8]

His son Katsushige (d. 1673) was also a painter, known for dancing figures in a style like that of his father.[9]

"Court Lady Enjoying Wayside Chrysanthemums"
17th century. Hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper.


  1. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, "Iwasa Matabei"
  2. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, "Iwasa Matabei"
  3. ^ Paine, 249–250
  4. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, "Iwasa Matabei"
  5. ^ Paine, 250
  6. ^ Paine, 250
  7. ^ Paine, 247–248; Image of the Hikone screen
  8. ^ Paine, 249–250, 250 quoted
  9. ^ Paine, 250


  • Encyclopædia Britannica, "Iwasa Matabei"
  • Paine, Robert Treat, in: Paine, R. T. & Soper A, "The Art and Architecture of Japan", Pelican History of Art, 3rd ed 1981, Penguin (now Yale History of Art), ISBN 0140561080

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