Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

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Camellia and lobster


    • currently in research collection

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  • Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum by Janice Katz

    Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum

    Chinnen has painted sixteen scenes of flowers and grasses, insects, fruits and sea life. It is the first of a set of three handscrolls, the other two scrolls are in the British Museum [the handscroll in the British Museum is dated 1837 and came from the Harari collection. It is published in Hillier, The Harari Collection of Japanese Paintings and Drawings, vol. 3, 504-6] and the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. The Ashmolean’s handscroll is dated 1838 (2nd month, 21st day) at the end of the scroll. All of the subjects have been rendered with a very broad brush to apply washes of ink. In the image of a camellia (tsubaki), the side of the brush has been used for the leaves while its tip was used to make the flower’s outline. The veins of the leaves done in black ink were applied while the green pigment was still wet so they have intentionally blurred. In another scene, the segments of the body of a lobster (ebi) are each drawn with one stroke of the brush. The effect is that the lobster’s joints appear realistically soft and flexible.

    Jack Hillier first published segments of this handscroll in The Uninhibited Brush, [The Uninhibited Brush, 315-25] in which he compares an image of turtles from the handscroll to a picture of the same subject in the artist’s printed book of 1834, the Sonan Gafu [a copy is in the British Museum], which he hails as one of the highpoints of the print medium. The Ashmolean’s handscroll is valuable in that it gives us an idea of what type of paintings the printed blocks were modelled on.

    Chinnen was a native of Edo who first studied the Maruyama style under Watanabe Nangaku when he came to the capital, as did Suzuki Nanrei. Like Nanrei, the artist of the previous entry [EA1973.1160], Chinnen was an extraordinarily talented artist who was adept at conveying the essence of a form with an economy of brushwork.

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