Since art historian Nobuo Tsuji published”Kiso no Keifu” in 1970 (an English version was released as “Lineage of Eccentrics” in 2012), broad attention has refocused on a number of Edo Period (1603-1868) individualist painters such Ito Jakuchu (1716-1800) and Soga Shohaku (1730-81), making their works tremendously popular today. These painters forged independent careers outside the usual school affiliation frameworks, employing highly expressive styles and meticulous brushwork. The recent rehabilitation of Yokoyama Kazan’s (1781/4-1837) oeuvre in “Kazan: A Superb Imagination at Work,” the painter’s first full-scale retrospective at The Museum of Kyoto, suggests that Kazan may be absorbed into that lineage.

Kazan’s painting vocation began through copying the works of the Edo Period eccentric, Shohaku. His personal study of those paintings can be given comparative scrutiny in the pairing of Shohaku’s “The Daoist Immortal Liu Haichan (Xia Ma, Gama)” (18th century) with Kazan’s 19th-century adaption with the same title. Shohaku’s pictorial instruction was close at hand because Kazan’s family, involved in Kyoto’s Nishijin district fabric industry, patronized Shohaku, as Shohaku’s “Letter Addressed to Yokoyama Kihee VI” (18th century) attests.

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