For eight weeks, Japan’s most famous tiger will reside exclusively at Museum Rietberg in Zurich. Now the entire temple’s painted walls and a number of other, awe-inspiring masterpieces by Rosetsu are being shown for the first time outside of Japan.
As legend has it, the Japanese painter Nagasawa Rosetsu (1754–1799) accomplished the monumental paintings of a tiger and a dragon, both symbols for the original life force of mankind and nature, on the walls of the central worship hall in the Zen temple Muryōji in one single night. These icons of Japanese paintings will leave its country of origin for the first time to feature prominently in an exclusive exhibition at the Rietberg Museum Zurich, which will last for 8 weeks.
The exhibition at the Rietberg Museum will survey Rosetsu’s art through a selection of sixty of his most important paintings. The works, many of which are registered as Important Cultural Properties or Important Art Works, come from various temples and renowned museums in Japan, Germany, and the USA. The highlight of the exhibition will be a magnificent ensemble of 48 screens and hanging scrolls, displayed in a recreated original floorplan of the Zen temple Muryōji. This Zen temple in the southern part of Japan’s main island holds the largest and most important collection of Rosetsu’s paintings, created in 1786. Various stories recount the creation of this breathtaking ensemble. The installation of these works would present an unprecedented opportunity to view and examine the paintings in a single venue outside their home in Kushimoto, and indeed the first such installation of architecturally specific paintings in an exhibition outside Japan.
The exhibits run the gamut of formats and subjects, from exquisitely executed scrolls depicting birds and flowers in brilliant polychrome pigments to large-scale sliding doors and folding screens with fantastic landscapes, bizarre figures, and adorable animals. With his unconventional compositions and powerful brushwork Rosetsu always offers a fresh take on traditional subject matter. His paintings never fail to surprise, entertain, and charm.