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Album of Calligraphy and Paintings, and its box


    • currently in research collection

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  • Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum by Janice Katz

    Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum

    The vogue for assembling painting and calligraphy by various artists was rampant in the early nineteenth century. The albums were made for several reasons including to celebrate someone’s venerated old age, to wish a friend farewell, for an exhibition, or to commemorate a meeting or visit. Nakai Monju (1757-1808) was responsible for some of the most ambitious assembled albums (yoriai or shūshū gajō) of his time. The Ashmolean’s album is one of these. It contains mostly works by artists in Osaka, particularly the Mori school and Fukuhara Gogaku’s (1730-1799) students. Because of the prevalence of the Mori school, this album has been included in the current section, though it should be noted that many artists whose works are in the album actually considered themselves proponents of the Nanga school. Interestingly, the order in which the paintings and calligraphy appear seem to have been arranged to emphasise the album’s diversity. Paintings alternate with calligraphy, and an effort has been made to alternate between different scripts among the calligraphy.

    The album opens with the title gachū yūshi, which translates as ‘Poetry within painting’, written in bold grass script and signed Kanrin Shindō. Next, the two-page preface is by Komai Hansai (1727-1803) and sealed with his gō of ‘Hōmei’. It is dated to 1801, when the calligrapher was seventy-five years old. In the preface, Hansai relates the circumstances surrounding the making of the album: Nakai Monju of Hino (Shiga prefecture) collected works by artists in Edo, Kyoto and Osaka and compiled them into three albums, of which this is one. He writes that the paintings included were not all done on one occasion at a gathering, like the Higashiyama albums of just a couple of years earlier to which he alludes [these are the Higashiyama daiichirō shogajō of which seven volumes are known. Bunjū also held similar gatherings in Sendai and Edo. Takeda Kōichi, ‘Shoga ga atsumaru/shoga o atsumeru’. In Kobayashi Tadashi and Kōno Motoaki, eds, Bunjin shoga: yorial shogajō, Edo meisaku gajō zenshū, vol. 10 (Tokyo, Osaka shinshindō, 1997), 158]. The inclusion of a majority of Osaka artists is explained by a number of reasons made clear in the preface. Hansai claims that Osaka is the equal of Kyoto in calligraphy and painting in every way. He also comments that the collected paintings and calligraphy were loosely grouped according to similarity, which perhaps resulted in a preponderance of Osaka artists in this volume. Lastly, none other than Kimura Kenkadō (1736-1802) asked Hansai, in haste, to write the preface.

    Kimura Kenkadō was a wealthy sake merchant in Osaka who acted as patron and advisor in many cultural projects of the time. He was an extremely cultivated man who studied philosophy, literature and Western learning. This he undertook not so much to learn each field in depth but more to be able to compare and explore their commonalities and differences [‘Kimura Kenkadō to sono kōyū’, in Yamanouchi Chōzō, Nihon Nangashi (Tokyo: Ruri shobō, 1981), 173]. From an early age, he studied painting with Ōoka Shunboku (1680-1763), a Kano school artist, as well as Nanpin school painting with the monk Kakutei (1722-1785). Poetry was another of his serious pursuits, and he was apprenticed to a botanist in Kyoto for a time as well. Hansai was a Confucian scholar and poet who had known Kenkadō from his early years as a student of poetry. Kenkadō, as a leading figure in the cultural circles of Osaka, would naturally have prompted the inclusion of many Osaka artists. Specifically, a large number of the names in this album are to be found in his Kenkadō nikki diary.

    It seems Nakai Monju was the director of the project to compile the Ashmolean album, while Kenkadō was called in to provide the necessary cultural contacts when they were lacking and to bring the project to a fitting conclusion. In addition, Hansai’s involvement may have prompted the inclusion of Mori school artists due to the fact that he was married into that family.

    The first painting in the album is of a black bear cub in the snow by Mori Shūhō painted when the artist was sixty-two, that is, in 1799, and therefore the earliest painting or calligraphy included in the album. The small bear with blue eyes looks directly out at us as he sits uneasily on a ledge amid the snowflakes. His furry coat is painted with the skill befitting a Mori school artist. Shūhō was a member of the Mori school of painters who specialised in humanised depictions of animals. He was the elder brother of Sosen (1747-1821), the famous painter of monkeys. Though less well regarded than his brother, Shūhō was a respected and prolific artist in his hometown of Osaka. This painting is signed ‘hokkyō (Bridge of the Law) Shūhō', and was done before he attained the highest honorary rank of hōin (Seal of the Law). Shūhō often wrote his age after his signature, as done here, making it possible to chart his career quite closely.

    Another artist who rose to the rank of hokkyō in Osaka was Okada Gyokuzan (1737-1812), a Ukiyo-e painter known primarily for his genre paintings, but who also painted landscapes as well as birds and flowers. Here, he has painted cherry blossoms as white and pink circles. The trunk of the cherry tree is a mixture of ink and gold pigment. As a prolific illustrator of books for mass consumption in Osaka, he was often looked down upon by the more literary set. His inclusion towards the beginning of the present album, a space usually reserved for the most respected artists, is therefore a matter of great interest. On the next page is a painting of three Chinese men around a tea brazier by Nakai Rankō (1766-1830), a painter, poet and illustrator of printed books in Osaka. It is painted in ink with thick
    caricature-like outlines. Rankō’s ink painting style, and especially his use of out¬line, came out of his study of Sesshū as well as of Chinese masters such as Mu Qi, though he often painted in the Shijō manner as well. Further on in the album, Hamada Kyōdō (1766-1814), a less well-known painter, has conceived a stunning image of a rose blossom and buds. Done only in various tones of grey ink, the brushstrokes of the blossom are invisible, resulting in a remarkably three-dimen¬sional image. Kyōdō was also an Osaka painter and pupil of Fukuhara Gogaku like so many of the artists included in the album. He was a physician, but was better known for his painting and was said to have chosen his models among Chinese paintings of the Ming and Qing dynasty carefully [this is mentioned by Kanal Ujū and translated in Wylie, 158].

    Not all of the painters are from Osaka, however. A handful of inclusions are by artists from various locations who painted the images while in Edo as indicated by their signatures. This is the case with Yamaoka Geppō (1760-1839), a student of Ike Taiga, and Tani Sukenaga, who both painted their contributions in 1800. Sakai Hōitsu’s (1761-1828) contribution of a painting of morning glories is noteworthy, but unfortunately there is no indication of where or under what circumstances he was asked to participate.

    Among the calligraphers involved, the names Shinozaki Ōdō (1737-1813) and Totoki Baigai (1749-1804) stand out in particular. The latter was a well-known calligrapher and poet of Chinese verse, who contributed to this volume soon after he retired to Osaka.

    The pages in order as they appear in the album are:

    1 Kanrin Shidō, Gachū (Title)
    2 Yūshi (Title cont.)
    3 Komai Hansai (1727-1803 ), Preface, 1801
    4 Preface (cont.)
    5 Anonymous, Plum Branch
    6 Mori Shūhō (1738-1813), Black Bear Cub in Snow, 1799
    7 Shinozaki Ōdō (1737-1813), Calligraphy, 1801
    8 Sumie Buzen (1734-1806), Entrance to a Mountain Retreat
    9 Okuda Genkei (1727-1807), Calligraphy
    10 Okada Gyokuzan (1737-1812), Cherry Blossoms
    11 Fujii Genshuku (dates unknown), Calligraphy, 1801
    12 Kanseki Gakkō, Calligraphy, 1801
    13 Nakai Rankō (1766-1830), Three Chinese Men
    14 Enzan, Calligraphy
    15 Hamada Kyōdō (1766-1814), Rose, 1801
    16 ?Segi, Calligraphy
    17 Kushiro Unsen (1759-1811), Chinese Landscape, 1800
    18 Fuchigami Kyokkō (?— 1833), Drunken Li Po
    19 Tachihara Man, Calligraphy
    20 Mori Shunkei (fl.. 1800-1820), Butterfly, Praying Mantis, Cricket and Rock
    21 Katei, Calligraphy. 1801
    22 Sekisho, Calligraphy
    23 Kanae Shungaku (1766-1811), Mountain Landscape, 1801
    24 Ohashi Ritsujo (dates unknown), Orchid and Rock
    25 Kichudō Suichiku, Calligraphy
    26 Shozan Kisho, Calligraphy, 1805
    27 Sakai Hōitsu (1761-1828), Morning Glory
    28 Oka Yūgaku (1762-1833), Landscape
    29 Totoki Baigai (1749-1804), Calligraphy
    30 Bankatsu Shōfu, Calligraphy
    31 Yamaoka Geppō (1760-1839), Landscape, 1800
    32 Minkaryū, Calligraphy
    33 Oka Ennen (active c. 1789-1800), River Landscape
    34 Sō Mitsuzō, Calligraphy
    35 Kyokkō, Bird on a Flowering Branch
    36 Gaizan, Calligraphy, 1801
    37 Soryū Sanjin, Butterfly
    38 Oke Genchō, Calligraphy
    39 Tani Sukenaga, Youth with a Biwa, 1800
    40 Mizouchi ?masa, Calligraphy
    41 Kayō sanjin, Landscape with Scholar, 1801
    42 Kyusaimo, Calligraphy
    43 Fukuhara Tōgaku (dates unknown), Scholar and Attendant
    44 Mashige Yūsai, Calligraphy
    45 Dōgetsu Yoshimasa, Boy Mounting an Ox
    46 Yagi Sonsho (1771-1836), Calligraphy
    47 Yagi Sonsho (1771-1836), Calligraphy
    48 Kinryū Sanjin, Calligraphy
    49 Katei (Hagura Ryoshin?), Pine and Rock
    50 Chiisai, Calligraphy
    51 Ohara Tōno (Minsei) (active c. 1818-1829), Scholar Viewing a Waterfall
    52 Kōkōkyō, Calligraphy
    53 Morikawa Chikusō (1763-1830). Bamboo
    54 Shintori Banka, Calligraphy, 1801
    55 Terajima Hakuju (active c. 1804-1817), Snowscape, 1801
    56 Hobun, Calligraphy
    57 Yanada Kunitaka, Mountain Retreat
    58 Seizan Sanjin, Calligraphy
    59 Yamanaka Kaiin, Quail
    60 Sawai Seitai, Calligraphy

    [Many thanks are due to Professor Nakatani Nobuo of Kansai University for identifying many of the calligraphers and painters].

    A sixty-page album like that in the Ashmolean is not extraordinarily large by any means, but it is of a relatively early date. Album compilations of this sort began to appear with regularity from about 1789, but became increasingly more popular in the first decades of the nineteenth century. Kenkadō was an early proponent of these albums. He was probably also involved in putting together another album, the Hoji Seigandō, an album of fifty-eight paintings and fifty-eight pages of calligraphy in two volumes. The albums share ten artists and calligraphers with the Ashmolean’s album [they are Hamada Kyōdō, Morikawa Chikusō, Kanae Shungaku, Mori Shūhō, Fuchigami Kyokkō, Totoki Baigai, Fukuhara Tōgaku, Nakai Rankō, Katei, and Okada Genkei. The album is treated in Kobayashi and Kōno, 106-19, 175-81], and have been collated along similar lines.

© 2013 University of Oxford - Ashmolean Museum