Suzuki Kiitsu (1796-1858)
Wall panel, ink and color on paper.
Inscription: Seisei Kiitsu 菁々其一
Seal: Motonaga 元長
129 cm x 51 cm x 2 cm (51” x 20” x .75”)
A painting by Suzuki Kiitsu presented for display as a wall panel. It is mounted on a strong, lightweight wooden lattice frame, prepared with multiple layers of Japanese washi paper. The techniques are traditional and archival, the effect surprisingly modern.
Suzuki Kiitsu is regarded as the most talented of the students trained by Sakai Hoitsu (1761-1828), who revived the Rimpa style in Edo (modern Tokyo). Kiitsu’s style carried on the Rinpa tradition of lavish beauty while adding vivid color contrasts and a rich design sense. It was particularly in flower paintings that artists of the Rinpa school expressed their skill for brilliant decoration. Although Kiitsu emulated his teacher’s style, later in life he sought a more modern feel in his work, often employing a vibrant palette of pinks, purples, reds and incandescent blues that had never been seen before, even in the colourful Rinpa tradition. He also mastered the art of layering wet ink and pigments in the tarashikomi technique.
Kiitsu switched to the pseudonym “Seisei Kiitsu,” during the mature period of his career, which lasted from 1844 until his death in 1858. During this time he continued to hone his range of expression, including by returning to the lyricism that characterized Hoitsu’s approach.
Kiitsu came to be hailed as an unparalleled master of the brush. His superb artistry captured the attention of Ernest Fenollosa, Charles Lang Freer, and other prominent aficionados of Japanese art who visited the country during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Thanks to their patronage, many of Kiitsu’s works were exhibited at museums outside Japan, and Kiitsu became recognised in American art circles as a leading Rimpa painter.
Kiitsu trained his own son Suzuki Shuitsu and many other pupils, encouraging them to hand down the Rimpa style that continues to the present. Indeed, Kiitsu played a spectacular role as a champion for Edo Rimpa. Other prominent painters from the Nihonga (modern Japanese style painting) movement of the early 20th century were influenced by his works. In particular his paintings that could utilise stylised natural motifs but still demonstrate the power of Japanese brushwork to evoke the nuances of season and reflective moods.
The groundbreaking 2016 exhibition “Suzuki Kiitsu Standard Bearer of the Edo Rimpa School” brought together over 200 works by the artist and those in his immediate circle. Its scale and breadth was unrivalled by earlier exhibitions both inside and outside Japan.