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Hon'ami Koetsu, the seventeenth-century Japanese artist who was recently the subject of a major exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, is renowned for his contributions to the arts of tea, poetry, and Rimpa (a bold decorative style that took imagery from the natural world and native classical literature as its subject.)
Among the works shown in Tea, Poetry, and Rimpa are painted wood Votive Plaques of the Thirty-six Immortal Poets (1698), an exceedingly rare and complete set on loan to the Museum by Dr. Luther W. Brady, Jr. The votive plaques (known as ema) were most likely commissioned for display in a shrine or temple. Each ema presents a poem inscribed in calligraphy accompanied by an imaginary portrait of its author, one of a group of preeminent writers designated the "Thirty-six Immortal Poets." Another highlight of Tea, Poetry, and Rimpa is a poem with calligraphy by Konoe Nobutada (1565–1614) who, with Koetsu and Shokado Shojo, was acclaimed one of the "Three Brushes of the Kan'ei Era."
Rimpa first emerged in the early seventeenth century, and traces its lineage to the paintings, lacquerware and book designs of Koetsu (1558–1637) and Tawaraya Sotatsu (active ca. 1600–1640). Displayed in Tea, Poetry, and Rimpa are paintings, prints, laquerware, ceramics, and textiles by artists who adopted the style and subject matter of Koetsu and Sotatsu, including Ogata Korin (1658–1716) and his brother Ogata Kenzan (1663–1743), Sakai Hoitsu (1761–1828), Morimura Hogi (1805–1862), and Kamisaka Sekka (1866–1942). One spectacular Rimpa-style screen included in the exhibition, Autumn Flowers, was once in the collection of the Philadelphia artist Mary Cassatt.
Some of Hon'ami Koetsu's most remarkable creations are related to his love of tea and teabowls. Tea, Poetry, and Rimpa presents teabowls made by the Raku family of potters, with whom Koetsu worked. Also showcased in the installation are other objects used in the Japanese tea ceremony (chanoyu)—during which powdered green tea is prepared by a tea master in the company of guests—ranging from tea scoops and kettles to lacquer incense containers and charcoal baskets.