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The Boston Globe

Theater & art

Frame by Frame

Unearthing ‘Dragon and Clouds’ at MFA

The prolific, peripatetic, and sake-swilling Soga Shohaku (1730-1781) was the Keith Richards of 18th-century Japanese painting. Or maybe the Willem de Kooning: Like those more recent heroes of unbridled, virtuosic, intuitive creativity, he seems to have worked best (or at least, surprisingly well) when drunk.

The Museum of Fine Arts owns more than 50 of his paintings. This one, “Dragon and Clouds,” is a perennial favorite, and for good reason. Painted when the artist was 34, it’s one of those jaw-dropping, brow-mopping masterpieces that causes crowds to congregate.

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