The Black Hat Eccentric

Artistic Visions of the Tenth Karmapa

Karl Debreczeny

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  • Published: July 2012
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies, Art History, Religious Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 320 pp., 275 color illus., 9.50 x 12 in.
  • Distributed for: Rubin Museum of Art, New York
  • Contents

The Tenth Karmapa Choying Dorje (1604-1674) was not only leader of the Karma Kagyu School of Tibetan Buddhism but also famous as a great artistic innovator. In particular his works are characterized by playful depictions of animals, which set him apart from other Tibetan artists. The Black Hat Eccentric is the first publication to focus on works by the hand of a single Tibetan historical artist. The centerpiece is an inscribed set of paintings dated 1660 from the Lijiang Municipal Museum in Yunnan Province, China. Paintings from a related set by the Karmapa's workshop form the other anchor for the project and demonstrate that teams of artists were trained in the Tenth Karmapa's fascinating and enigmatic style. Individual paintings and sculptures attributed to the Tenth Karmapa from collections worldwide are also considered and contextualized by these two aspects of his artistic production.

This personal story of the life of the artist draws on his autobiographical writings as well as his many biographies to recount the dramatic historical events of the 17th century, especially as they negatively affected the Tenth Karmapa and his Kagyu School followers, thus casting a negative light on the Ganden Phodrang government of the Fifth Dalai Lama.

"At once a fascinating story of an unconventional artist and his times, and a landmark contribution to Tibetan studies."
-Leigh Sangster, Mandala Publications

"What is most exceptional about this book is that it brings us artwork distinguished by the hand of this master artist."
-Michael Sheehy, Buddhadharma, Spring 2013