CLP 46: 2001 "China's Relations with Korea and Japan in Art." Lecture for NYU conference

James Cahill paper for NYU symposium: “Influence, Confluence . . .”
March 15, 2001

I want to begin by distancing myself a bit from the title of the conference: I join Michael Baxandall in being uncomfortable with the formulation of artistic relationships in terms of influence, preferring to see artists as active agents choosing what’s useful to them from a diversity of sources, including some from other artistic traditions, rather than as receiving “influence” from them. Baxandall writes: “‘Influence’ is a curse of art criticism primarily because of its wrong-headed grammatical prejudice about who is the agent and who the patient; it seems to me to reverse the active/passive relation. . . If one says that X influenced Y it does seem that one is saying that X did something to Y rather than that Y did something to X. But in the consideration of good pictures and painters the second is always the more lively reality.”

Baxandall is writing about so-called “influence” among artists (and all uses of the term “influence” in this lecture should be understood as having quotation marks around them); but what he writes applies as well to cross-cultural transmissions--for my subject today, between China and the other two cultures of East Asia, Korea and Japan. If the formulation that sees the later, so-called “receiving” culture or artist as in fact the active party, making deliberate choices among a diversity of available styles and motifs and “pictorial ideas” to adopt or appropriate--if this formulation could be accepted and used by everybody who speaks and writes about the matter, replacing the “influence” model, much of the hostility that scholarship on this subject has met with would never have happened. In my case, it goes back to 1970, when Michael Sullivan gave a paper at an international symposium in Taipei on European prints and paintings that were in China (by way of the Jesuits) in the late Ming and early Qing, and I used that as a basis for arguing how Chinese artists took from these pictures new pictorial ideas and techniques that they found attractive. (For that occasion, it was principally Wu Bin; in later writings I made the same argument for quite a few other artists. In those days, I’m afraid that I myself sometimes slipped into the “influence” model, as I’ve tried not to do for some years now.) What China took from Europe isn’t properly relevant to this conference; I begin by confronting this matter to clear the way for the approach I’ll take this morning.

Adopting what we can call the Baxandall model (although of course it wasn’t new with him) will allow us also to take a more even-handed approach to the question of China’s relationship with surrounding cultures in art. In other fields of Chinese studies, the sinocentric version of this, in which China was virtually always the source of “influence” rather than the recipient, and incursions and invasions from other cultures were absorbed and “sinicized,” has given way to better-balanced accounts that can be summed up in the title of the 1983 book edited by Morris Rossabi, China Among Equals. My lecture this morning, which has to do with China’s relationship in the arts with Korea and Japan, will try for the same balance, attending both to what China gave them and what China received from them. The latter is more difficult to do, since for the reasons just mentioned, any scholarship on it has be recent and limited--and likely to be carried out against some opposition. One cannot write histories of Japanese or Korean art without acknowledging Chinese “influence”; one could, and we did, write histories of Chinese art in which all the important developments were internal (with the only significant exception in Buddhism and its art, which I won’t deal with today, leaving it to others more at home in it.) Only now do we begin to realize how inadequate that one-way version must be. However, I haven’t myself done more than begin to think about and look for evidences of adoptions by Chinese artists from Korean and Japanese art, so what I say about it will be very brief and preliminary.

First, Korea, in which I’m not at all knowledgeable, but since none of the Korean painting specialists is taking part (big symposium at UCLA coinciding with this one), I’ll have to stand in, however inadequately.

S,S. In 1973 the Yamato Bunkakan in Nara held an important exhibition of Korean paintings in Japanese collections. The catalog reproduces the pictures and gives minimal information on them, but doesn’t discuss the evidence for their being Korean. For most, from the later periods, there were signatures or seals of Korean artists, but for some, especially the early ones, it was simply a matter of their being “Korean by style.” I was in Japan at the time of the symposium held there in connection with the exhibition, on relations in art between Korea, Japan, and China, and I spoke at some length, raising the question of why two of the paintings in that show, now on the screen, were included, since they seemed to me to stand apart from the others, one looking very Chinese, the other very Japanese, neither demonstrably Korean. The painting at right was cataloged, on the basis of a seal in one lower corner, as by [Ri Shûbun], the artist of a well-known bamboo album painted in 1424, who is listed in early Japanese records as a Ming painter, but whom the Japanese came to consider Korean. In any case, inspection showed that the seal was on separate paper from the painting; and on all other grounds the picture appears to belong in Muromachi-period Japan (another version of the composition, by an early Kano master, is known.)

The landscape at left in the Shôkokuji, Kyoto, ascribed to the Chinese Yüan-period artist Zhang Yüan and inscribed by a 14th century Japanese monk, was published as a Korean painting in 1937 by a Japanese scholar named Wakimoto on no other basis than style.

S,S. I included it in my book on Yüan painting, pointing out that it belongs within a Chinese stylistic development leading from Xia Gui through the Kôtôin paintings attributed (wrongly) to Li Tang (detail at right), and represents a quite logical extension of that development into the Yuan period, so that the original attribution to a Yuan follower of Xia Gui was as good as we could arrive at, and we might as well stick with Zhang Yuan. (Point out. Similarities striking.)

S,S. A Landscape After Rain ascribed to the Chan (Zen) master Yujian, which may date from around the end of Song and belongs in the same lineage. But more than one Chinese or Japanese friend, seeing it, has said “Korean.” It used to be that both Chinese and Japanese scholars and collectors used Korea as a convenient dumping-ground for paintings they couldn’t fit easily into either of the other two painting traditions. Now, with studies of Korean painting more advanced, this unfortunate practice is less common’ but it’s still a danger, especially now that Korean paintings are so much in demand, and there might even be an economic incentive for ascribing a painting to Korea.

S.S. Not many identifiably Chinese paintings in this style have survived, but we can see landscapes like these, done in wet brushwork with the same bold light-shadow separation, in the background screens of 13th century Chinese “Kings of Hell” paintings, done in Ningpo and imported to Japan. This should be enough to establish the style as Chinese, even though it has been erased from the record, so to speak, in China. By contrast, there is, so far as I know, no early identifiably Korean painting in this style.

S,S. Paintings preserved in Japan ascribed to a mysterious Gao Ranhui, unrecorded in Chinese sources, are also sometimes called Korean, but again, not on any solid basis.

S,S. The identifiably Korean masterwork of early landscape is of course this “Peach Blossom Spring” scroll painted in 1447 by An Kyon, in a Japanese collection. Hongnam Kim and others have traced its style correctly to Yuan-period Chinese landscape in the Li-Kuo manner.

S,S. With that as a basis, other extant paintings can be convincingly assigned to Korea, such as this pair in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, now exhibited as “Style of An Kyon.”

-- S. Hanging beside them is this one, a fine 15th century painting that Hongnam Kim believes is an “Evening Bell from a Distant Temple” from an Eight Views series. I’m less convinced of that subject, and still not entirely sure it’s Korean rather than Chinese. This whole area of atmospheric ink monochrome landscape in the 14th-15th century, drawing on late Sung styles, is still murky and fascinating; in spite of good work by Ahn Hwijoon, Kim Hongnam and others, much remains to be clarified. A shift in thinking might help: On the old “influence” model, we would see China sending out the styles to both Japan and Korea, which would develop them in their own ways. On the Baxandallian model, a different pattern might replace that one: we might see the common source as the ink-monochrome landscape styles of late Song China, and three groups of artists, those of Ming China, early Choson Korea, and Muromachi Japan, all drawing on this in different ways for their own purposes.

S,S. I ‘ve argued in several recent lectures, using as principal visual evidence a 22-leaf album by Sesshû mysteriously ignored by Sesshû scholars, that Sesshû not only had first-hand familiarity with Southern Song painting, but was able to re-create it, when he chose to, on a level of finesse and fidelity that would be hard to match among the Ming painters of China. Whether or not some corresponding case could be found in Korean landscape painting I don’t know. But such instances can be recognized and analyzed only by giving the artist, such as Sesshû, the status of an active agent, not a passive recipient.

S,S. Before moving on to the China-Japan relationship in art, I want to touch briefly on the question of what Korean painting may have contributed to Chinese. Korea’s achievements in creating new styles and techniques in Buddhist sculpture and celadon ceramics, and its priority in moveable-type printing, are all generally recognized, and all were drawn on by Chinese artists and artisans engaged in similar projects. (For Buddhist sculpture, by Japan as well, of course: a symposium and exhibition on that subject are reportedly planned for Japan House.) In painting, while innovativeness can of course be marked from the beginning, it’s more difficult to find clear cases of Chinese artists adopting elements of style or compositions from Korean painting. Especially for the late period, we can suppose some artistic interchange between Korean artists and their Chinese counterparts working in the northeast area, the Chinese provinces of Liaoning and Jilin; some painters from there have in fact been called Korean, on the basis of entries for them in biographical books that give Sanhan as their birthplace. One of these is Li Shizhuo, active in the mid-18th century. (Two works of his now on the screen.) Along with his uncle, the finger-painter Gao Qipei, he was once classified as a Korean painter for the reason just mentioned; and since there are indeed qualities in the paintings of both of them that appear a bit foreign to the Chinese tradition, it was tempting to accept this. But more recent scholarship has pointed out that Sanhan can refer to two places,[1] one indeed in Korea but the other in Manchuria; and from Li Shizhou’s own designation of his birthplace, a city near present Shenyang, it’s clear that the latter identification is correct.

S,S. The same is probably true for Cui Hui, a very interesting figure painter active around the same time in the northeast. A recent catalog identified him as Korean,[2] and that claim is made also in an early 19th century Korean book.[3] That his surname, Cui or Ch’oi, is a common Korean name would seem to strengthen these claims. But again, the only evidence is the same Sanhan given as his place of origin, and since Cui Hui appears in a book on Bannermen painters, and held the office of District Magistrate under the Manchus, a birthplace in Manchuria seems more likely. (This matter is still problematic; a young Korean scholar with whom I’ve been in correspondence argues still that the artists must be of Korean , even if they were born in Manchuria. I leave this for others to straighten out.)

[1] Marc Wilson and K. S. Wong, in Eight Dynasties, entry for Li Shizhuo.

[2] Ju-hsi Chou, in EB p. 238.

[3] Personal correspondence with Hwang Jung-yon, November 2000. The book is the collected writings of Song Hae-ung, 1760-1839.

We turn now to Japan, and what Japanese artists adopted from China. Since most aspects of this huge topic have been extensively worked over already, I will speak only about a few cases of it that bear out the argument with which I began, that such transfers are best regarded as active recipient adopting freely from passive source. Cross-media borrowings are especially interesting in this regard.

S,S. That Edo-period Japanese painters learned about Chinese painting styles in part through woodblock-printed pictures based on paintings is well known; but the implications of this for the artist’s styles have not been much explored. We’ve written about the drawbacks of learning about Chinese brush painting through woodblock prints; an analogy I used to use was having access to a Beethoven symphony only through a piano-roll reduction and then trying to turn it back into a symphonic work for full orchestra. The end product would sound very different; much of Beethoven’s greatness would be lost. But it’s also possible that there would be corresponding gains in the new work. That possibility can be exemplified by the case of Ikeno Taiga. He had access to a copy of the Chinese Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting (a double leaf at left, from the first part, 1679) and used it as a sourcebook, especially when he did sinophile subjects--at right, a “Red Cliff” painting, after Su Dongpo’s famous prose-poem, in the Freer Gallery of Art.

-- S. Detail. Seeing how a color-woodblock style becomes the basis for a painting style is very interesting: the heavy, discontinuous contour lines, the shaded colors (based on the printmaker’s technique of wiping the block after applying the pigment), the depiction of masses of tree foliage by overlaying a bounded area of shaded color over an ink pattern of leafage--

-- S. again, a device forced on the Chinese printmaker by the limitations of his medium but embraced as a feature of a new style by the Japanese painter.

S,S. What follows is well known--how Taiga exploits the abstracting and flattening potential of the new style in pictures such as this painting of 1749. in which (although it’s an early work) the borrowed elements are already assimilated into a coherent Japanese style, partly by reconciling it with the aesthetic principles of Rimpa (note the blue water pattern.) In another lecture I would deal with the question of what I mean by “a coherent Japanese style”; this morning, because of limitations of time, I’ll simply assume that most of you know what I’m talking about,

S,S. Even in his late work, such as these two leaves from the great Jüben album of 1771, major features of the style still echo their woodblock origins: the heavy, discontinuous contours, the pointillist patterns. But the ultimate origin of these is of interest now only to art historians: the style is mainly to be credited to Taiga’s painterly genius, not to any derivation from China. The Mustard Seed Garden manual, itself a work of modest aesthetic merit, can scarcely be said to have exerted some powerful “influence” on all these brilliant stylistic moves; it was Taiga who saw possiblities in the book that the Chinese artists and artisans who created it could never have dreamed of, and exploited them.

S --. With enough slides and time I could show you how Taiga similarly based his fusuma (sliding door) paintings of arhats crossing the sea in the Mampukuji on a low-level handscroll of that subject in the temple collection by some unknown Fukien painter, a work deservedly obscure but still to be seen there,

S,S. Or how the great Rimpa masters Sôtatsu and Kôrin used simple ink-line pictures from a late-Ming woodblock-printed book on Buddhist and Daoist transcendents (for which I don’t have slides) as the basis for some of their finest works. Japanese scholars, notably Yamane Yûzô but also my former student Kobayashi Hiromitsu, have identified many cases of this kind. All redound entirely to the credit of the Japanese masters who were able to transform the Chinese woodblock pictures, unpromising materials in themselves, into richly satisfying and highly original works of art.

S,S. The Japanese artist might equally, of course, begin with a recognized masterwork from the other tradition, if he has access to it--here, the great “Mountain Village in Clearing Mist” by the 13th century Yujian, long preserved in Japan. Kôrin rearranges and reworks its materials into a decorative two-fold screen (now in the Seattle Art Museum). The greatness of the source picture does not induce Kôrin to really imitate it; here, as in the other case, we observe a free and inspired manipulation of a freely-chosen model, in no sense imposed on the artist by some perceived notion of Chinese cultural superiority.

S,S. When, in the 1960s-70s, I was doing the research in Japan on early Nanga painting that eventually produced studies of Sakaki Hyakusen and Yosa Buson, I was able to revise the standard account laid out by Japanese specialists, in which the pioneer Nanga masters, having no access to original paintings by the Ming-Qing masters of China, had to learn about them through woodblock-printed pictures. This is true enough in some cases (Mochizuki Gyokusen vs. Hasshû Gafu page).

S --. But, as I was able to establish, this was only part of the story, probably not the most important part: they also copied and imitated real Chinese Ming-Qing paintings. The reason these hadn’t been identified was that the scholars were looking in the wrong places: they were not the major Ming-Qing paintings to be seen in books and museum exhibitions, but minor works, of small value in China, that were brought for sale to Japan by Chinese merchants, who sold them through Nagasaki. They could still be found, in unlikely places such as the storage cabinets of small dealers, and matched up with the Nanga masters’ works. A published painting by Sakaki Hyakusen, for instance (of which I couldn’t find a slide), proved to be based on an anonymous Ming painting that was hanging in the Chinese decorative arts room of the Nelson Gallery in Kansas City; the director Laurence Sickman had bought it for a modest price in Kyoto, not as a painting that in itself deserved a place in his distinguished collection, but because the furniture in it interestingly matched the furniture in his gallery.

S,S. Simple copying of that kind is relatively insignificant; more interesting is the case of an artist making the silk purse out of the sow’s ear. A small, loveable painting of 1781 by Yosa Buson, at right, proves similarly to be a copy, quite close in composition but with the materials rearranged, of a work by a minor, unrecorded Chinese master named Tang Xianzi, which turned up in 1983 in the shop of the Shimmonzen dealer Taniguchi. Even the posture of the boatman, which happens to match a Buson figure-type, is anticipated in the Chinese work. But executed in the fluent brush drawing of Buson’s late style, and with all the materials transformed into items in his personal idiom, it becomes a new work. Buson used the Chinese picture, making no reference to it in his inscription (Tang Xianzi was scarcely a name worth invoking), and no doubt went on to use some other source for his next work--acts of appropriation that obviously cannot be accomodated within the “influence” model. Although the Chinese picture wasn’t expensive, I left it there; I would happily have given several months’ salary, on the other hand, for the Buson, but the owner, Yabumoto Sogoro, would never let it go for several months of a professor’s salary. Time doesn’t permit an analysis of why one is a fascinating painting, the other a dull one, although it could be done, and I have no objection in principle to doing it. After a talk given in Chicago several years ago I was taken to task by a younger colleague for making the distinction between fine and mediocre works of art; on that point I remain unregenerately non-egalitarian, continuing to believe stubbornly in good and bad art, and the importance of trying to distinguish between them. It’s fortunate that people of the other persuasion aren’t curators in our museums, which, if they followed their principles, would then be filled with dull and mediocre works of art.

S,S. A comparable phenomenon of good art derived from less good is seen in the ways some 19th century European artists (mostly French) took “artistic ideas” that were new to them from Japanese prints. It’s well known that except for the works of Hokusai and Hiroshige, the ones they could see were not the Japanese prints we now value highly, but were mostly of the school or period classed as “decadent” (the term has been protested, predictably, in recent times, but I think retains some validity), Toyokuni III and Kunisada and the rest. Crude and repetitious as these were, they were nonetheless inspirational for the European painters, who mostly didn’t copy them directly (these two by van Gogh are exceptions, print-to-painting transfers far less productive than Taiga’s) but who made use of them in ways that profoundly changed the stylistic direction of European painting in its Impressionist - Post-Impressionist phase. Access to the masterworks isn’t essential, and in cross-cultural transmissions is usually not possible, since the works most easily accessible to the foreign artists are likely to be of a kind that the source tradition considers minor.

Gong Xian and other 17th century Chinese masters, as I have shown in various writings and lectures, used engravings in European books, which were not in their own tradition considered works of art at all, for inventive and unexpected transformations. But similarly unexpected uses of pre-existing art works can be found within the tradition. We write about later Chinese painters “imitating” the ancients, but that’s an institutionalized, overt practice--the artists write in their inscriptions what they are up to--and not at all what I have in mind now. I think of appropriations of another kind altogether, which typically are not acknowledged by the artist who does the appropriating. Let me show an example.

S --. An album leaf by Gong Xian, who seldom painted in color but is very interesting when he does, since he’s inclined to use the colors to replace the ink, rather than to supplement or embellish it. Here he does the dian, or dots, in color, and has them hover outside the forms. He places a house on a ledge beneath a cliff, and supports it below with upward-pointing boulders, energized by raveled brushstrokes instead of the usual texture-strokes. Where else have we seen all this?

-- S. Yes, of course, in Shitao’s famous leaf in the Album for Daoist Yü, in which Shitao adds a figure in the house, turns Gong Xian’s image around and does it in looser brushwork, making the dissolution of solid mass into movement somewhat more radical-- and creates one of the memorable images in Chinese painting. This remarkable leaf, which I had the pleasure of introducing, at least to English readers, in my Fantastics and Eccentrics exhibition and catalog thirty-odd years ago (Victoria Contag, who owned the album then, had published it earlier in a small book almost forgotten today), has become one of everybody’s favorites, while Gong Xian’s has scarcely been noticed. Shitao spent some years in Nanjing in the 1680s, and adopts compositions and features of style freely from the Nanjing masters in some of his later works. Does this open him to charges of being derivative, less original? Of course not--it’s exactly the original and versatile master like Shitao who had to develop the skill of taking freely what he needed from whatever source, to sustain his prolific, ever-changing output. (Picasso, as we all know, did the same thing--Harold Rosenberg points out that he pilfered freely not only from a great diversity of outside sources, but equally from his own earlier work--as, indeed, Shitao frequently did.)

S,S. Details. Now, what points am I making. First, that a good creative artist will take what is artistically useful to him from any source available, without being much concerned over whether it’s old or new, native or foreign, prestigious or critically depreciated--it scarcely matters--except when appropriations from some recognizable source will, for one reason or another, arouse a negative reaction in his audience or clientele. (A choice can be aesthetically defensible but politically unwise--I think for instance of how the Lingnan or Canton school of painters in the early 20th century used styles they had learned in Japan, styles obviously derived from Japanese painting, at a time when Japan was seen as the enemy, and were harshly criticized for it.) Certain of the artist’s sources, then, he can’t acknowledge openly--works from alien traditions looked down on by his compatriots, or by non-prestigious artists, or paintings of types considered somehow low-class, as Gong Xian was in his time. Shitao is not likely to inscribe his picture as largely lifted from one by his old friend Gong Xian, any more than Gong Xian would inscribe his as based on a foreign print. So the artists go on piously invoking the old masters of their own tradition--Dong Yuan and Juran for China, Sesshû for Japan. (Shitao eventually broke down and refused to go on doing this, instead writing inscriptions that mocked the practice.)

My second point is that the source or model need not be a masterwork, and often can be of notably less artistic value than the work it inspires. It need do no more than supply a good idea that the later artist can take and run with. That observation contradicts directly the assumption behind the “influence” model, in which a work of art or a style is strong and compelling enough to be “influential,” and as such exerts its “influence” on later works, which receive it gratefully, to their benefit.

S,S. Now, with these insights, back to the China-to-Japan sequences, to make a few more points before closing. It’s well known that Japanese Ukiyo-e artists took the technique of multi-block color printings from China, where it was developed to a very high technical level in the late Ming period. It’s less known, although Richard Lane and others have written about it, that the earliest masters of Ukiyo-e, working in the late 17th - early 18th century, were indebted to Chinese erotic pictures in style as well, and for the very formation of the type, the printed album. Unfortunately, the Chinese examples are difficult to see, since, like other kinds of art held to be beneath their dignity by Chinese critics and connoisseurs, it was not preserved in its native country, and scholars wanting to study it now must go, mainly, to Japanese collections. (The same is true of a lot of Chinese erotic and popular literature.) The album from which one leaf is at left, dating to around 1640, was purchased in Kyoto in 1950 by Robert van Gulik--the original blocks, that is, which had been somehow transported to Japan and preserved there. At right, a print by Moronobu. I should add that since Japanese erotic pictures were being imported in quantities into late Ming China and were popular there, the transmission of styles was presumably two-way, with artists of each culture borrowing freely from the other.

S --. In any case, like Ikeno Taiga, Moronobu and the other Japanese masters soon adapted their imported materials to Japanese style and taste, a process that has a lot to do with the beginnings of Ukiyo-e. Again, I avoid defining what I mean by Japanese style and taste.

S,S. I want to make a small corrective point before continuing. The process by which Ukiyo print artists first added colors by hand (Torii Kiyomasu at left), then began printing them with additional blocks, in two or three colors at first (Torii Kiyomitsu at right),

S,S. And eventually, in the mid-1760s, notably in the work of Harunobu, used many blocks to produce the nishiki-e or brocade prints, is recounted in all the books. So far it’s true enough; but the development of nishiki-e is sometimes claimed as the beginning of high-level multi-block color printing in Japan; and that isn’t true.

S,S. In fact, it had begun twenty years earlier, in Kyoto, with the production of the Japanese edition, the so-called Kan’an-ban, of the Mustard Seed Garden Manual, from which these are two leaves. The printing is not quite up to the level of the original Chinese edition, but it’s technically sophisticated and, so far as I know, a first for Japan.

S.S. Also, a book titled Minchô shiken, made up of pictures labeled as by noted artists of Ming China such as Wen Zhengming, was published in 1746, also in Kyoto. This combines color-block printing with the technique of kappa-zuri or brush-painting through stencils. (These slides are not from the original 1746 edition, but from an early 19th century reprint.) My point, insofar as I have one, is that it isn’t the importation of the technique as such, but the turning of it to new and native purpose that proves to be momentous.

My last section will deal with what Japanese painting contributed to Chinese painting, and it will be brief, although the subject has begun to engage the attention of scholars in recent years. Both Korean and Japanese painted fans were on the market, and popular, in Song China; what Song artists might have appropriated from them, however, would be difficult to determine. The folding fan form originates in Japan, and to my knowledge was not used in China until the Ming.

S,S. An album by the late Ming figure master Chen Hongshou in the Palace Museum, Beijing, contains, in addition to more conventional leaves (one at left), a remarkable leaf titled “The Great Ford on the Yellow River” (at right). Reproducing this in my book on late Ming painting, I commented that anyone familiar with Japanese painting will be reminded of

S --. “the superb wave-patterned stream that flows, similarly flattened onto the picture plane, between two blossoming plum trees in the famous Japanese screens by Ogata Kôrin (1658-1716).” But I stopped short of suggesting any real connection, especially since the Korin work must be later than Chen Hongshou’s. Dick Barnhart, in an unpublished symposium paper, showed the same leaf by Chen Hongshou, suggesting that Chen had been looking at something Japanese, and got around the chronological disparity with Kôrin by suggesting that some work by or in the style of Tawaraya Sôtatsu, who was about twenty years older than Chen Hongshou, might have been seen by him. All this needs more work, as Barnhart comments.

We are on firmer ground with later Chinese painting, 19th-20th century, especially for painting in Shanghai, where a lively trade with Japan was going on, and Japanese paintings were to be seen; also, some Chinese artists were going to Japan to teach or to study. What the Shanghai School may owe to these contacts with Japan remains to be seriously investigated; once more, obstacles of national pride will stand in the way, and cannot easily be circumvented so long as the “influence” model remains influential.

S,S. It’s been suggested that Ren Xiong, another of those brilliant and versatile masters who availed himself of a great diversity of old and new styles, included Japanese styles among them; some of his pictures do indeed “have a Japanese look” (an evasive way of not taking time to say what I mean by that.)

S.S. And the idea for his famous self-portrait, life-size and (at least in part) very realistic, which has no real precedent in China, could have come from contact with some Japanese work of the kind--Watanabe Kazan, for one, was making realistic portraits with elements of western illusionism in the 1820s and 30s (this one is 1827.) Once more, the differences in style are immense; I’m only suggesting, again, that artists pick up good ideas from each other, and use them in their individual ways.

S,S. The case of the Lingnan or Canton school in the early 20th century has already been mentioned; a book by Ralph Croizier has clarified what Japanese painters and paintings Gao Jianfu and the others saw, copied, imitated, and acquired to bring back to China. Other Chinese artists later spent periods of study in Japan; one who made good use of his time there to absorb elements of style that helped him establish himself as an independent artist, breaking from old-established Chinese habits, was Fu Baoshi. I’ve argued elsewhere that a Japanese master nearly unknown outside Japan, Kosugi Hôan, played an important part in Fu Baoshi’s formative period; another was Tomioka Tessai. Tessai’s late work, from his eighties (he died in 1924), often sets fine drawing of figures with spots of bright color into a framework of deep black areas of ink applied in a semi-controlled way. His works in this style, striking and innovative, were much admired and exhibited and reproduced in the 1930s when Fu Baoshi was studying at the Imperial Art Academy in Tokyo.

S,S. We can match up Fu Baoshi paintings with those by Tessai to show how Fu could take a whole composition from Tessai, besides the basic style of fine drawing and color set within heavy ink areas. (Here, Tessai’s picture of the Song poet Su Dongpo visiting the monk Foyin; and a detail from a picture obviously based on it by Fu Baoshi.

S,S. Details from other Fu Baoshi paintings in this mode. The heavy-ink manner has been, from the 1940s on, one of the options open to Chinese painters; in tracing its origins they have, understandably enough, found them in the Chinese tradition, Xu Wei and Gong Xian and others. But a more immediate source is, I believe, the painting of Tessai as transmitted by artists who studied in Japan, as well as through reproductions.

S,S. (Last slides: details from another of Tessai’s late, inky landscapes, and from one by Li Keran.) One of the heirs to this manner was Li Keran, who died as recently as 1990. When in 1988 a major Tessai exhibition was for the first time sent to China and shown in Beijing and Shanghai with great success--I acted as instigator and go-between in the early stages, between the Chinese Artists Association and the Kiyoshi Kojin Temple in Takarazuka which owned the paintings--Li Keran wrote a generous and revealing essay for the catalog, telling how Chinese artists of his generation had been very much aware of the works of Tessai, through reproductions and a few originals, and how they had admired them and learned from them. His words went beyond, I believe, standard expressions of inter-cultural friendship, acknowledging a truth. I’d like to suggest, finally, that the lively and productive back-and-forth that goes on between artists, which is revealed in their paintings, is perhaps most easily recognized and acknowledged by the artists themselves. Tessai had no problem in crediting his myriad Chinese sources, from which he plundered endlessly throughout his long career as a sinophile painter; Li Keran, at an uncharacteristic moment for China, acknowledged his and his fellow artists’ debt to Tessai. It is rather the art historians and cultural historians, with their overt or covert political agendas, who will sometimes deny what is before their eyes and continue to argue for some such myth as the cultural insularity of China. And my final plea is: let us all do our best not to. Thank you.

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    VI Conclusion It is time to draw back and look, if not at the whole Hyakusen, at as much of him as we have managed to illuminate in this study. Dark areas remain, and doubtless many distortions, but...

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  • Bedridden Blog
    Bedridden Blog   I am now pretty much confined to bed, and have to recognize this as my future.  It is difficult even to get me out of bed, as happened this morning when they needed to...