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In his 1808 book, “Chronicle of Audacity and Timidity” (“Tandai Shoshinroku”), scholar and poet Ueda Akinari satirized, “When Okyo came on the scene, sketching from life (shasei) became popular, and all the paintings in Kyoto began being done by the same method!”

The realist impulse abetted by Okyo’s shasei is the focus of “Legendary Kyoto Painting From Maruyama Okyo to the Modern Era” at The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto. While the exhibition’s opening section, “It All Began With Okyo,” indicates Okyo (1733-95) initiated a form of modernism in Kyoto painting, the works on show expose a more nuanced legacy.

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