Tosaha 土佐派
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
A school of painting, active from the early 15c until the late 19c, that specialized in courtly subjects painted in the *yamato-e やまと絵 style. During this time, members of the Tosa school almost continuously held the position of head of the Imperial painting bureau edokoroazukari 絵所預. Until the 17c, the Tosa school painted for the court and aristocratic patrons, which favored such painting subjects as scenes from the classic Tale of Genji (see *genji-e 源氏絵), but in later years, the school's range expanded to include bird-and-flower painting *kachouga 花鳥画 and other Chinese-inspired themes and styles. In general, the Tosa style is characterized by rather flat, decorative compositions, fine linework, great attention to detail, and brilliant color.
The earliest documentary evidence for an artist using the name Tosa are two early 15c references to a man named Fujiwara Yukihiro 藤原行広 (fl. 1406-34) who was also known as Tosa Shougen 土佐将監, a title derived from his position as governor of Tosa province. Yukihiro's activity as a painter is known primarily from an inscription on illustrated handscrolls of the Stories of the Origin of Yuuzuu Nenbutsu, Yuuzuu nenbutsu engi 融通念仏縁起 (1414, Seiryouji 清涼寺 in Kyoto).
Yukihiro's father, Fujiwara Yukimitsu 藤原行光 (fl. 1352-89) was appointed head of the Imperial painting bureau in 1352, and Yukihiro appears also to have held that post. However, the line of succession from Yukimitsu (considered by some to be the founder of the school) until the time of Tosa Mitsunobu 土佐光信 (1434-1525), who brought the school to a position of prominence in the late 15c, is still unclear .
Many fine works remain from Mitsunobu's hand. Although he painted both Buddhist paintings and portraits in addition to the standard repertoire of courtly themes, he is best known for his illustrated handscrolls *emaki 絵巻 such as The Legends of Kiyomizudera Kiyomizudera engi emaki 清水寺縁起絵巻 (1517, Tokyo National Museum). During Mitsunobu's lifetime, the Tosa school may have had some influence on the early development of the Kanou school *Kanouha 狩野派 of painting, in particular, on the use of brilliant colors and gold in combination with the Chinese inspired brushwork and for various themes for which the Kanou school is known.
Mitsunobu was succeeded by his son, Mitsumochi 光茂 (also read as Mitsushige; 1496-ca.1559), under whom the fortunes of the school began to decline. When Mitsumoto 光元(fl.1530-69), the next head of the painting bureau, was killed in battle in 1569, his post was given to a second son or perhaps the student of Mitsumochi, Tosa Mitsuyoshi 土佐光吉 (1539-1613). Mitsuyoshi eventually left the capital and his post and settled in the city of Sakai 堺 (a port city near Osaka), where he sold paintings to the local townspeople. Mitsumochi also moved away from the traditional Tosa themes to specialize in bird-and-flower paintings. During this period, the stewardship of the imperial painting bureau passed from the Tosa school into the hands of Kanou school painters.
Mitsuyoshi's son, Mitsunori 光則 (1583-1638) continued to live and work in Sakai, painting for townsmen, until 1634, when he moved to the capital with his eldest son, Mitsuoki 光起 (1617-91) and began painting ceremonial fans for the court. Twenty years later, in 1654, Mitsuoki was appointed head of the imperial painting bureau, thus restoring the fortunes of the Tosa family. Mitsuoki also rejuvenated the traditional Tosa style by introducing elements from Chinese painting. He is particularly noted for his elegant paintings of quail, as for example, the Chrysanthemum and Quail screens which he painted with the help of his son Mitsunari 光成 (1646-1710).
Mitsuoki's successors headed the Imperial painting bureau until the end of the Edo period, but their reliance on imitating the style of Mitsuoki rather than developing new techniques or themes led to the production of works that were increasingly static and conventional.

den Ashikaga Yoshimasa-zou 伝足利義政像 at Tokyo National Museum

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