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Gallery Text

Shōhaku’s unconventional paintings, together with tales of his disheveled appearance and bizarre behavior, have made him one of the best-known "eccentric" painters of the Edo period. His unorthodox paintings were thought to be the product of a self-taught individualist, but he may in fact have trained with Takada Keiho (1674–1755), whose work is displayed nearby. Shōhaku employed extreme contrasts between light and dark, also used by Keiho, to create this surreal landscape populated by a lone scholar seated before the pavilion in the foreground, his face eerily blank. Shōhaku signed this work "Tenth Generation Jasoku," a reference to the painter Soga Jasoku. The prestigious Soga lineage evaporated in the 17th century, and there is no evidence of any link with Shōhaku, who also claimed association with the aristocratic Fujiwara house and even the first Ming emperor.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Soga Shōhaku, Japanese (Ise 1730 - 1781 Kyoto)
Ink Landscape
Work Type
painting, hanging scroll
c. 1770–81
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan
Edo period, 1615-1868
Persistent Link
Level 3, Room 3600, University Research Gallery
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Physical Descriptions
Hanging scroll; ink on silk
painting proper: H. 127.8 × W. 53.4 cm (50 5/16 × 21 in.)
overall mounting, including roller ends and suspension cord: H. 213.5 × W. 74.5 cm (84 1/16 × 29 5/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: Jasokuō jussei Soga Shōhaku
  • seal: Kiichi
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Promised gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Publication History

The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection, exh. cat., Yomiuri Shinbunsha (Tokyo, 2013), p. 134, cat. 64

Kit Brooks, "'A School unto Himself'? The Formation of Soga Shohaku (1730-81), Orientations (September 2015), vol. 46, no. 6, p. 108, fig. 5

Yukio Lippit, "An Interview with Japanese Painting Collectors Robert and Betsy Feinberg", Orientations, Orientations Magazine (Hong Kong, January/February 2020), vol. 51, no. 1, pp. 34-43, p. 43, fig. 10

Rachel Saunders and Yukio Lippit, Painting Edo: Selections from the Feinberg Collection of Japanese Art, exh. cat. (Cambridge, MA, 2020), p. 65, fig. 54

Exhibition History

The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection, Tokyo Metropolitan Edo-Tokyo Museum, 05/21/2013 - 07/15/2013; Miho Museum, 07/20/2013 - 08/18/2013; Tottori Prefectural Museum, 10/05/2013 - 11/10/2013

32Q: 2600 East Asian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 12/07/2017 - 06/01/2018

Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/14/2020 - 07/18/2021

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at