Artists & Designers

Soga Shohaku (1730-1781)

Soga Shohaku was an outstanding eccentric artist of his day. The history of the Soga School, whose name Shohaku adopted, stretched back to ink painting artists at Zen Buddhist temples in Kyoto in the 15th century. This line of early Soga School artists was broken following the collapse of traditional daimy__ō -patron support in the 16th century. However, a line of painters claiming Soga connections emerged in the 17th century, and Shohaku's name appears in art lists as a later Soga School artist. In contrast to earlier Soga School painters residing in Kyoto, Shohaku moved about the area around modern Osaka and Kobe seeking commissions. His work was much admired, and he traveled the countryside leaving paintings in temples and private collections, influencing many provincial artists.

Shohaku worked outside the formal and orthodox painting styles of official Kano and amateur literati painters of the 18th century, though elements of his works suggest his idiosyncratic style was based at least in part on awareness of earlier examples. The wild roughness of some of the best known examples of Shohaku's painting--some said to be painted with bunches of straw--relate to the bluntness of individualist Zenga artists of the 17th and 18th century. This suggests a deliberate choice rather than madness (as is sometimes mentioned) to explain Shohaku's unconventional style.

Adapted from

Gallery wall text