WORK OF THE MONTH

2020

2020.08

Kawaguchi Ekai “Poems”

A diptych, ink on silk,

with a box signed and sealed by the artist

Kawaguchi Ekai was a Buddhist Scholar and Obaku sect Monk of the Meiji period. He entered Tibet, which was then closed to foreigners, in search of Buddhist scriptures. Using broad strokes, his thick brushwork appears to manifest the strength of Ekai himself. Depicting Chinese poetry, the right column depicts the work of the Tang dynasty poet, Xu Hun, while the left is of his own. In Ekai’s “Three Years in Tibet” he discusses the state of being overwhelmed by the natural scenes of the Himalayas and, like Xu Hun’s poem, encounters flying cranes and blowing snowstorms.Using Xu Hun’s poem to signify the beauty of nature, Ekai expresses the intense feeling he experienced alone in the Himalayas, through his own addition.

2020.07

Nagasawa Rosetsu “Carp”

Slight color on silk

114×41cm / 172×50cm

In this work, a lifelike carp is depicted immersed in cool water. In recent years, Rosetsu has been generalized as an "eccentric painter", however, the impact and legacy of his teacher, Maruyama Ōkyo is remarkable. A work of great realism, a single carp is depicted alongside a gentle stream. Simple yet lifelike, this work reflects Rosetsu's talent and his quick inheritance of the Maruyama school "realism".

Click here for more info about Nagasawa Rosetsu

2020.06

Ohashi Suiseki ”Kittens”

Color on silk, with a box signed and sealed by the artist

43×52cm / 147×66cm

Drawn by the master of tiger paintings, Ohashi Suiseki, the artist drawing cats early on, when he was still living in his hometown, in the Mino Province (present Ogaki City, Gifu Prefecture). This work was made during his later years. During then, he was known to draw cats (especially,) with specific auspicious intent. "Mao", the Chinese pronunciation of cat, was believed to signify longevity since it shared the same pronunciation as "耄", meaning eighty, or ninety years old. The China Roses that surround the kittens were also called "Moon Flowers and "Everlasting Spring Flowers". Always in full bloom, these flowers bloom every month. Charming yet meaningful, the appeal of this work lies its loveliness and sophistication.

2020.05

Yamamoto Baiitsu ”Ukishima”

Slight color on silk, with a box signed and sealed by Tajika Chikuson
39×65cm / 140×79cm

This piece was made in 1835 when Yamamoto was 42. Alongside symbolic motifs, this depiction of Mt. Fuji features elegance and realism. In the past, there used to be swamps of varying sizes around Mt.Fuji, known collectively as the Ukishima Marsh. If this work was drawn from the view from Ushikima Marsh, perhaps it is Mt. Ashitaka depicted in the foreground. Illustrating the post-rainfall phenomenon of clear and sunny skies, this work presents Mt. Fuji at its most divine.

2020.04

Shimomura Kanzan “Spring”

Color on silk, with a box signed and sealed by the artist, exhibited at the 1931 Shimomura Kanzan Retrospective

139×51cm / 223×66cm

The work was painted in 1919 when Kanzan was at the age of 47. When illustrating human subjects, Kanzan would tend to depict religious subjects, i.e. those associated with Buddhism. Thus, this work is an exceptional rarity in its depiction of a beautiful woman. In this work, a woman and a cat is drawn with a delicate outline. Subtle and harmonious, the subdued color application complements the tenderness of the female figure and the euphoria of spring’s prime.

2020.03

Sakai Hoitsu/Kikuchi Gozan/Miyagawa Unzan

(Picture)Sakai Hoitsu

(Inscription)Kikuchi Gozan/Miyagawa Unzan

A diptych, ink and slight color on silk, with a certificate of authenticity by Nakano Kigyoku, illustrated in the sale catalogue of the property of Muto Sanji at Tokyo Bijutsu Club in November, 1924

94×35cm / 183×50cm

To commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of Ogata Korin’s death, in 1815, Sakai Hoitsu organized an ink painting exhibition and published a book entitled “Korin Hyakuzu” (One Hundred Paintings by Korin). This pair of hanging scrolls is a reproduction of a work illustrated in the book. The chicken is painted with a unique sense of humor and sentience, using Tarashikomi, a classic Rinpa technique. Miyazawa Unzan, the poet, praises the work, stating, "This chicken is depicted so lively." Contrastingly, the water-like waves of the crow's feather design suggests another characteristically Rinpa aesthetic. In his poem, Kikuchi Gozan similarly praises the work for its endearing and humorous depiction of the angelic crow, writing, "Don’t nest in emperor's garden, chirp in mine, dear crow of happiness."Previously part of the businessman, Muto Sanji's collection, this work will be available for viewing and purchase from the 20th of March, at the “Rinpa School: The Legacy of Sophistication and the Beauty of Simplicity” exhibition.

2020.02

Soga Shohaku/Futsukabo Sou “Hina Dolls”

Ink on paper, illustrated in “Kokka” Vol. 1430

94×28cm / 176×34cm

Was there ever a painter who drew dolls in such a way? Whether now or in the past, it’s quite likely that no one other than Soga Shohaku would paint so peculiarly. Is the male doll behind dancing or falling down? In the foreground is a female doll with her arms spread and her body unclothed. The inscription states, “I’m drunk and I can see numerous dolls”. Although this work contradicts the calculated and elaborate drawings Shohaku is also renowned for, the piece presents the artist in a state of liberation, where his brush is free to run and travel, drunk, across the paper. On another note, the work is also interesting in how it displays how Shohaku interacts with the haiku poet, Futsukabo Sou.

2020.01

Jiun Onko “Calligraphy”

Ink on paper
88×28㎝/175×41㎝

Jiun Onko was a monk of the Shingon sect in the late Edo period. He placed great emphasis on Buddhism’s strict discipline and advocated “the Shingon Risshu sect”. Well-known as a master of calligraphy, he was also the founder of Unden Shinto.In addition, he wrote a voluminous book, “Bangaku Tsuryo,” which covers a thousand volumes of Sanskrit research.The Chinese character “阿 (a)” in this work is the first letter of Sanskrit, which is said to represent the origin of the universe. In Esoteric Buddhism, it is the origin or birth of all languages, voices and words. It is a perfect piece for the start of a new decade, 2020.

2019

2019.12

Watanabe Seitei “Mt Penglai and cranes”

Triptych, color on silk, with a box signed and sealed by the artist with the artist's seal
108×35cm / 176×48cm

As the sun rises above Mt. Penglai, a flock of cranes, traditional symbols of longevity, fly by. This auspicious painting depicts the ancient Chinese legendary sacred mountain, Mt. Penglai. It was said to be located in the East Sea of the Shangdong province, where hermits would live and make immortality potions. Subtle but beautiful, the details of the mount that backs the main image contains intricately woven traces of the artist's seals. This piece dates to around 1910’s when Seitei was in his late 50s and in his mature period of painting. Radiating fortune and luck, the auspicious qualities of the painting makes it best suited for display when celebrating the New Year.

2019.10

Shiba Kokan / Kaburaki Baikei “Birds, insects, flowers and plants”

A diptych, color on silk
96×33㎝ / 175×41㎝

Both Shiba Kokan and Kamuraki Baikei are painters trained in the Nagasaki school and at one time both of them lived around Hamamatsu-cho, so it is easily imagined that they knew each other. This pair of works by the two each vividly depicts creatures near watersides. Breathtaking details in bright colors are the characteristics of the Nagasaki school, but what amazies the viewer is the shrewd sense of observation. Look at the dancing butterfly or the mantis hiding quietly that are so realstically painted, whether their legs, antenna or wings. These persistently realistic pictuires show the strong passion to master the latest trend brought from the continent as well as their rivalry.

2019.09

Uragami Gyokudo “Calligraphy”

Ink on paper, with a box signed and sealed by Tanikawa Tetsuzo

本紙112×23 全体186×35cm

An Ivy-like climbing plant tumbles, its leaves changing colors here and there, fortunately preventing the tiny thorns from creeping in.

"Master Gyokudo's hand is outrageous and other-worldly" wrote Tanomura Chikuden in his Chikuden-so Shiyu Garoku (Records of Chikuden's Teachers and Friends). Calligraphy by Uragami Gyokudo is certainly extraordinary and is said to be recognizable at first glance with his strongly characteristic and non-conforming ways. If a work represents the creator, his hand certainly shows Gyokudo's anti-conventional spirit. Each character in this calligraphy work, mainly written in semi-cursive script with some cursive characters mixed in, has strong personality, but as a whole piece they are united to provide a unique rhythm. Gyokudo, a Koto harp lover, declared that there was no works of him without a harp. Though there is no Koto directly mentioned in this piece, it may represent the scene in which strings of Koto vibrate the air, fading to silence, and it is not hard to imagine the picture of Gyokudo sitting in front of the seven-stringed Koto harp.

2019.08

“Fireworks in Ryogoku”

A six-folding screen, color on paper

本紙96×301 全体110×316cm

This work depicts a firework festival during the middle of the Edo period (the age of the eighth Shogun Yoshimune). Known as the oldest firework festival, it eventually developed into the current Sumida River Firework Festival. At the time, there were many pyrotechnists in Ryogoku, and people in Edo enjoyed fireworks as a major summer event. Unlike today, fireworks were hand-held, and pyrotechnists set them off from their boats. The artist is unknown but judging from the hand-held fireworks this work was paintedin mid to late Edo period. Capturing the details of pyrotechnists competing against each other, along with Edo children enjoying the scenery, this is truly a rare and precious piece that provides a feel of "Edo summer".

2019.07

Takahashi Deishu “Calligraphy”

Ink on silk, with a box signed and sealed by Umezono Yoshimasa

140×58㎝/198×74㎝

I've reached 50 and my hair has turned grey.
Good times and bad times, I've always looked up the sky.
Alone,reading chinese teachings while enjoying the plum blossoms in the serene daily life.

Along with Katsu Kaishu and Yamaoka Tesshu, Takahashi Deishu is known as one of the three greats of end of Edo era(Tokugawa Shogunate). Also known as master spearman ship. Just like many martial arts masters, Deishu was also a great calligrapher. This piece is one of the rare piece that is written in Kaisho (block style). The letters are clean that reflects his honest character.

2019.06

Arimoto Toshio “Work”

Dry lacquer, hand colored, 20/20
H34cm×W24cm×D10cm

Arimoto Toshio is known for his mystical style incorporating Western Fresco paintings and Japanese Buddhism. He passed away at the age of 38. This piece was created using a technique called Kanshitsu (dry lacquer) that has traditionally being used for sculpting Buddha. Arimoto Yoko, his wife, states that the three dimenstional work expresses Arimoto's intention straightforwardly. Arimoto was very fond of utilizing his crafty skills, and created wood carving pieces in-between his painting production. There is a certain warmth and nobility in this piece that reminds us of sacred sculptures.

2019.05

Nagasawa Rosetsu “Sparrows and azalea”

108×36cm / 200×51cm

Azalea in full bloom lively spreading its branches, and sparrows are actively moving around it. This scenery from early summer is so full of life. It is as if you can hear the birds singing. Rosetsu's extraordinary talent and energy is so abundantly expressed in this piece.

(Ink and color on silk, with a signed and sealed by Oi Josui, illustrated in "Nagasawa Rosetsu - An Entertainer from Kyoto" published by the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art in 2017)

2019.04

Ikeno Taiga / Nakai Riken “Peach blossom spring”

Ink and color on paper, with a box signed and sealed by Yamanaka Rankei, illustrated in the sale catalogue of the property of a certain family at Osaka Bijutsu Club on 15 December 1935, illustrated in the sale catalogue of the property of Koshu Imai family and a certain family at Kanazawa Bijutsu Club on 28 November 1936
132×55cm / 207×72cm

Ikeno Taiga is considered one of the great masters of Japanese literai paintings, displaying a talent for both calligraphy and paintings. Depictions of the Peach Blossoms Spring derive from the famous fable by a Chinese poet Tao Yuanming. The inscriptions to painting by a Confucian scholar Nakai Riken also refers the story. The work was created in 1771 from the period of maturity of the artist. Mountains are outlined with a dried brushwork and light and shadow is described by applying faint red and blue color to the side of mountains. A river flowing slowly seems to invite fisherman to the Shangri-La.

2019.03

Ogata Kenzan “Cherry blossoms”

Ink and color on fan-shaped paper, illustrated in the exhibition catalogue "Art of Rinpa" at Ishikawa Prefectural Museum of Art
122×66cm

Kenzan is famous for his ceramics, but he was also a talented painter. Following his older brother's footsteps, Kenzan started to show his gift as a painter in later years. This is a very gentle piece illustrating cherry blossoms with gradations of ink and pale pink. Unlike his brother, Korin, Kenzan found his style in the simplicity.

2019.02

Matsuo Basho “Poem”

Ink on paper, with a box signed and sealed by Okura Kyusui
28×36cm/129×64cm

The haiku master, Matsuo Basho changed haikai into spiritual artform. He travelled throughout his life and wrote poems of his journey. This piece is written at the age of 45 when he visited Ise shrine. He was looking for a plum tree in the shrine, and was informed that there is one tree inside the lodge for god's servants. He expresses the beauty of the tree in this poem.

2019.01

Ito Jakuchu “Ebisu (god of commerce)”

Ink on paper
104×41cm/197×55cm

This is a very humorous painting using "Rusu Moyo," the indirect expression of a motif by painting the things around the motif and not itself. Ebisu (god of commerce) is illustrated here by painting the fishing rod and the fish that Ebisu caught. This is a celebratory piece with lively fish that symbolizes harvest and wealth. Jakuchu's signature technique Sujime-gaki(split-ink method) is used in the scale. The seal is known as Senkaku Zeppitsu used around 1772 - 1780 for the works that Jakuchu particularly favored.

2018

2018.12

Omoda Seiju “Powdered snow”

Color on silk, with a box signed and sealed by the artist, with a certificate of authenticity by Tokyo Bijutsu Club

127cm×41cm/221cm×56cm

This is a masterpiee by Omoda Seiju, in which he took the Japanese painting to another level by merging realism and decorative elements of Rimpa style.Omoda states "it's impossible to paint the temparature in the cold air or the ambiance that foggy morning brings. What you can paint is the forms. I keep on painting the forms and it starts to create the tone or the air." Probably, by "tone" or "air", he is reffering to some kind of an "aura." Please check out the "aura" he creates in this piece.

2018.11

Suzuki Shonen “Fairy Tales”

Color on paper, polyptych of twelve-scrolls

119cm×31cm/191cm×43cm

Suzki Shonen was known as "present Shohaku" for his dynamic and bold painting style. This piece depicts scenes from Japanese faiy tales. The characters are illustrated with full of personality, which shows Shonen's eccentricity and humor.

2018.10

Yosa Buson “Poem with a Scarecrow”

Ink on paper, with a certificate of authenticity by Matsumura Goshun

98×27㎝/182×30㎝

The poem reflects the story by Onono Komachi. The scarecrow drawn in bold brushworks seems as if it predicts the storm. The simple composition stimulates our imagination and invokes the lively scenery. This piece certainly shows the aethetics of Haiga.

2018.09

Yosa Buson “Landscape”

110×32㎝/190×50㎝

Buson painted this piece at the age of 55 - 62. The serene landscape is calming and warm. The change of season is expressed in the pale blue of the mountain in the distant and the tan color of the trees. The human figures are illustrated in such a gentle manner, which puts smile on viewer's face. This piece is very symbolic of Buson, who was also known as a literati.

(Ink and slight color on silk, with a certificate of authenticity by Tanomur Chokunyu, illustrated in "Nanga Jutaikashu" published in 1910 and "Buson Zenshu" vol.6 published in 1998)

2018.08

Suzuki Shonen “Fireflies”

Ink and color on silk, with a box signed and sealed by the artist

115×52㎝/204×65㎝

Suzuki Shonen was a well-known painter in Kyoto, who was known for his bold paintings. He was often compared with Shohaku for his style. This painting is a very unique piece where he illustrated the serene Japanese night scenery where the night breeze blowing over the river and the lights from fireflies created mysterious ambiance. This is very appealing especially in the hot summer days. This year commemorates 170th anniversary of his birth and 100th from his passing. Why not enjoy the cool night breeze with this piece.

2018.06

Hayashi Jikko “Tiger standing in the wind”

130×66㎝/222×85㎝

A tiger standing against the wind. The artist is Hayashi Jikko, a Nanga style artist from Mito. He is known as one of the artist with unorthodox style, just as Ito Jakuchu, Soga Shohaku and Nagasawa Rosetsu. Jikko studied under Tachihara Suiken, but he mostly taught himself and developed his own style. The result is his unique animal paintings. Captivating and dynamic, his paintings grab viewer's heart.

(Ink and slight color on paper, with a box signed and sealed by Matsushita Hidemaro, illustrated in the exhibition catalogue "Hayashi Jikko" at Itabashi Art Museum in 1988.)

2018.05

Hakuin Ekaku “Shoki”

Ink on paper
129×55㎝/228×70㎝

Hakuin Ekaku sends us a message on how we are supposed to be as a being through the bold illustration of Shoki with powerful glaring eyes and dynamic lines of the robes. The writing here is an excerpt of script of a scene from Japanese Noh theatre "Shoki", where Shoki vows to protect the country.The powerfulness of this piece shows Hakuin's prayer and devotion for people's happiness.Hakuin's teaching reaches to our soul through Shoki's strong stare.

2018.03

Mikuma Katen “Frog and cherry blossoms”

Color on silk
102×41cm/191×43cm

Mikuma Katen painted Sakura(cherry blossoms) throughout his career, and established a style called Mikuma-ha. Mikuma Roko, Hirose Kain, Oda Shitsushtsu were some of the artists who were schooled. His artist name, Katen, means "flower fanatics" or "sakura lover". He devoted his life painting the flower regardless of his poverty. Connoting its fragility, sakura illustrated by Katen bloom beautifully in his paintings. He might have reflected himself in the frog adoring sakura. In his death wish, he noted that he wished to scatter his ashes in the river, and plant sakura tree. This piece truely shows us his passion and love for sakura.