Jakuchu grew up in a prosperous merchant household in Kyoto’s Nishiki-koji district, at the center of a bustling fish and vegetable market. A devout Buddhist with no interest in commerce or the pleasure quarters, he took up painting full time in his mid-thirties and was obsessively absorbed in his work for over half a century. As for his subject matter, it seems that he raised chickens at home. They play a significant role in his oeuvre.
His white rooster is considered an early work, because the artist was not yet painting on the reverse of the silk (ura-saishiki), a technique he introduced later to create more vibrant colors. Some of the white pigment (gofun) has either fallen off or been removed during cleaning.
This painting is said to have belonged to the well-known American scholar Richard Lane (1926-2002), who lived in Kyoto and whose collection of Japanese art is now in the Honolulu Museum of Art. (For a brief biography of Lane, see Impressions, the journal of the Japanese Art Society of America, no. 26 (2004) www.japaneseartsoc.org.