Was born in Nana-o, Noto Province (now Ishikawa pref.) to a family of cloth dyers (Hatakeyama family) and was adopted by the Hasegawa family.
HASEGAWA Tohaku admired the Japanese monk-painter Sesshu Toyo (1420-1506) and studied with his successor Toshun. So great was Tohaku's admiration that he called himself the fifth-generation successor, until he lost a lawsuit to Unkoku Togan (1547-1618) who was also claiming artistic descent from Sesshu. Tohaku also studied Buddhist iconography as well as Yamato-e, native style of painting. By the age of 20, he had established himself as an independent painter. At 33, he moved to Kyoto and began to study the Kano style of Chinese Academic painting under KANO Shoei (1519-92) or KANO Eitoku (1543-90) from about 1570, but he also studied Chinese Sung and Yuan period ink painting by masters such as Mu Chi. Tohaku is considered the revivalist of the classical ink painting style in the Momoyama period. HASEGAWA abandoned the Kano school of painting and founded the short-lived Hasegawa school. The school consisted mainly of HASEGAWA and his four sons. His major contemporaries were KANO Eitoku, Unkoku Togan of the Sesshu lineage, and Kaihoku Yusho (1533-1615). His studio was probably located in Kyoto at or near Hompoji Temple, a Nichiren sect temple, just up the street from where the Omotesenke and Urasenke would someday be located.
Tohaku received many commissions from major temples and ruling military families, for example, Daitokuji Temple as well as the TOYOTOMI and TOKUGAWA families. The most famous person in the Toyotomi family was Hideyoshi (1536-91), who unified, then ruled Japan and that of the Tokugawa family was Ieyasu, founder of the Edo government which took over after Hideyoshi.
In HASEGAWA'S last years TOKUGAWA Ieyasu called him to Edo (Tokyo), where he stayed until he died. He was given the ecclesiastic painter's title of Hogan at age 67.
Until the present century, HASEGAWA was known mainly for his ink paintings often with monkeys or gibbons, done in the ink style used by Zen priests since the 13 th. Century. Hasegawa's aesthetics of Chinese paintings can be found in the Tohaku Ga-setsu, "Tohaku's Explanation of Painting" Japan's first critical analysis of painting, recorded about 1592 by Priest Nittsu, from conversations held with Tohaku. Nittsu was the Abbot of Hasegawa's ancestral temple, Hompoji in Kyoto.
HASEGAWA was the first painter to use pine trees exclusively as the subject of a major works. In this painting, a National Treasure and considered one of the best ink paintings of the Momoyama, the half tones and full tones share equal volume. It is possible that the paintings on these folding screens were originally sliding door paintings for the main hall of a temple.
In the 1930's historians added a substantial number of paintings to HASEGAWA's oeuvre. This was determined by analyzing the way rocks were painted by HASEGAWA Tohaku and his sons. Some of those discovered can be found in the following temples: at Chishaku'in, a painting previously attributed to KANO Sanraku (1559-1635); at Sambo'in in Daigoji and at Myorenji.
Large numbers of monochrome paintings are attributed to HASEGAWA Tohaku. The earliest of these maybe at Shoden?in Shoin ( formerly part of Kenninji Temple but now at Urakuen Park near Nagoya).
Tohaku's earliest known painting (1589) of dragons is at Daitokuji temple in Kyoto. Others can be found at the following locations:
Daiho'in Temple, Chishaku'in
Daitokuji Temple Complex, the following temples: Juko'in, Sangen'in, Shunjuan (Sliding doors of two rooms dated 1601)
Hompoji Temple, Entoku'in
Kenninji Temple, Ryoshoku'in
Kodaiji Temple, Entoku'in
Kyoto National Museum
Metropolitan Museum, New York
Myoshinji, Rinka'in (landscape paintings), Ryosen'an, Tenkyu'in
Nanzenji Temple, Konchi'in, Tenju'an (wall paintings)
Tokyo National Museum (National Treasure-a pair of six paneled folding screens - Pine Trees)
Urakuen Park near Nagoya.