Exhibitions/ Art Object

Irises and Stream

Suzuki Kiitsu (Japanese, 1796–1858)
Edo period (1615–1868)
mid-19th century
Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
Image: 35 1/8 x 11 3/4 in. (89.2 x 29.8 cm) Overall: 72 x 17 in. (182.9 x 43.2 cm)
Credit Line:
Collection of Jane and Raphael Bernstein
Not on view
Iconic images of irises by Ogata Kōrin (1658–1716) were widely transmitted through their reproduction in woodblock-printed drawing manuals compiled by Sakai Hōitsu (1761–1828) and others in the early nineteenth century, and the motif became central to the Rinpa repertoire. In early Rinpa works, irises were associated with an episode from The Ise Stories (Ise monogatari), but by the late Edo period, along with other floral motifs favored by Rinpa artists, they had taken on a more naturalistic feel and become detached from literary associations. Here, the irises are buffeted by rain, as a water strider skirts across ripples on the marsh.

Hōitsu’s protégé, Kiitsu began his apprenticeship with the master in 1813, when he moved into the Hōitsu household. He was later adopted by Suzuki Reitan, a samurai who served the Sakai clan and a student of Hōitsu’s. Although Kiitsu emulated his teacher’s style, later in life he sought a fresher, more modern feel in his work, often employing a vibrant palette of purples, pinks, greens, and blues never before seen, even in the colorful Rinpa tradition.
Signature: Signed "Seisei Kiitsu"; sealed "Shunkurin"
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Designing Nature: The Rinpa Aesthetic in Japanese Art," May 26, 2012–January 13, 2013.