CLP 151: 1972 “The Problem of Value in Nanga Painting.” Asia House Gallery, NY


The Problem of Value in Nanga Painting

Subject of tonight’s lecture dictated by somewhat special circumstances of exhib. General informational lecture on Nanga ptg. would not be to point, since catalog supposed to fulfill that function.  But cat. only touches occasionally on question of value.  What is a good Nanga ptg. and what is a bad one, and how are they good & bad? What are the values of Nanga?

Under ideal circumstances, the views of the organizer of an exhib. on subject of value should be self-evident: what he puts in his exhib. is what he believes to be good.  But with most exhib., circumstances less than ideal; compromises necessary between what organizers would like to show and what they can get. In case of present exhib., this was even more than usually true.  Difficulties that would make up another lecture, one that I am not going to deliver publicly, led to replacement of just about half the paintings originally chosen, Including many of those I most wanted for the exhib., with substitutions over which we had no control.  These substitutions are all, I hasten to say, genuine and important works we are grateful to the Bunkacho, the Agency for Cultural Affairs in Japan, for all their efforts on our behalf but the character of the exhibition was significantly changed.  My plan was to present a new and fresh view of Nanga, featuring some artists who seem to me to have been neglected, playing down others who seem to me overrated.  I was going to introduce fine & little-known ptgs, and right some balances.  This was not to be; we end with a very fine exhib., but one reflecting a more traditional appraisal of Nanga artists than I had intended. This is not by any means an unmixed misfortunes may well be that most people here would rather see the traditional view of Nanga than a more private one. In any case, my lecture tonight will be, among other things, an expression of some of these more personal, biased, iconoclastic views on Nanga that might otherwise have been expressed in the selection of the exhibition.

Problem of value espec. acute in dealing w. Nanga, because its values complex, like those of Ming-Ch'ing ptg: can easily escape people.  Pioneer American scholar of Jap. art, Fenollosa, dismissed the whole school as "hardly more than an awkward joke," and others, while not so vehement, have similarly neglected it.  Where Ukiyo ptg & prints, which flourished in same period, have immediate & simple appeal, Nanga doesn't yet an involvement w. Nanga may well prove more regarding in the end. So Nanga has been given little attn., outside Japan until very recently. Japanese themselves have tended to hold on to traditional views abt. which were realty good artists & really excellent ptgs; continue to present as masterworks of Nanga works that sometimes seen to us relatively uninteresting.  We must understand their reasons & respect them; but we must also make our own judgments.  In fact, foreign scholars,

who are at serious disadvantage for pure historical research because of devilish difficulties of dealing w. old texts & historical records, can make signif. contributions in booking at Nanga w. new eyes, seeing such problems as its relat. w. Chinese ptg from new perspectives.

Before we attack the problem of value, a few assumptions should be stated clearly. These are all open to argument, but they are mine, and they are the ones I'll operate with tonight.

  1. Since value in art arises from the experience of the work of art, the aesthetic experience, and is not a constant attribute of the work itself as an object, if follows that judgment of value are affected by such factors as the circumstances under of the newer, and particularly by his is sufficiently sensitized to the particular language of an artistic tradition, its conventions, its stylistic distinctions, he can't move far enough into the individual work of art, experience it fully enough, to asses it effectively. But apart from this, one's background affects one's judgments, an Occidental will find different qualities occasion­—(Wang Yüan-ch’I and Taiga).
  1. Nevertheless, this doesn't mean that value is a purely relative matter, reducible to personal preference, it only means that one's judgment can be or some
  1. catalog 't by any means depend on how close a resemblance they attained to their Chinese models;  on contrary, they are often at their best when they depart most thoroughly from Chinese Models. In broader sense, I think finest when it is most Japanese, this is part of why we tend to admire Sotatsü more than Kanō

With these premises, let's look at Nanga, I want to begin w, example of what I mean about context in which work exper. affecting one's evaluation of it.

S.S. Ptg by Nukina Kaioku, mid-19c.  Nanga artist, not rep, in exhib, Pub. recently in Kukina Magazine as one of Kaloku's finest works, a judgement I quite agree with.  Winter LS; has qual. of monumentality wild grandeur not often found in later Jap. Ptg;  dynamic, strong comp.  On its own terms, then, fine ptg could be presented that way, and I don't think many would disagree.

But could be presented in another way.  Kaioku says in insc. that it is based on Ch. ptg. of Yüan dyn, which he saw on trip.  If we know Yüan ptg, we can guess at what kind of picture he saw.

S.S Kuo Hsi, T'ang Ti, Origin of comp., & style, back in 11th cent.  China, w. great landscapist Kuo Hsi. "Early Spring," 1072.  This imitated by many later artists one is T'ang Ti, Yüan master, early 14th cent.  I use this in Ch. art classes to illustrate degeneration of Sung LS styles in later times. Subtle effects of space, atmosphere, light, all lost naturalness of Coras which is essential to original gives way to grotesque, unnatural shapes.  In this context, Tang Ti's ptg must be seen as a debased imitation of Kuo Hsi's great original.

S. And in this context, Kaioku's Is seen as a further distortion & debasement of the type, based perhaps on crude copy of some such ptg as T'ang Ti's, too far from orig. source to catch more than fragments of it, or to achieve any really creative transformation of the style. Same ptg as before; but can't be looked at w. same eyes by anyone who knows what it is based on; for him, not same ptg.  In similar way, Sesshū loses much of his attraction when one knows the Ming styles he derives from, and sees what he has done with there.

S.S. For such reasons, I think Ken & Nankai, two of pioneers of Nanga rep. in our exhib., fail to come through as really creative, original artists; they imitate what they know of Ch. ptg, with limited understanding because of their limited acquaintance good originals; they are historically important in introducing compositional types, new motifs to Jap arts but they do not originate really interesting, viable styles. Their works suggest that they were more concerned w. conforming to their models than w. producing good paintings; their artistic motivations seem wrong.  They were primarily scholars, for whom ptg, was part of Chinese literati culture they admired, and to be practiced for that reason.  Not a good enough reason.

S. I have said in catalog that 3rd of early masters, Hyakusen, is a far better ptr than either, and a really crucial figure in the early dev. of Nanga; it is he, more than anyone else, who sets the direction it is to take. But ptgs, we have in exhib,, although both good works, don't illustrate this ideally.   This never LS, which was to be included but was eliminated for complicated reasons, would have made the point much better.  Beside Kien's picture, it seems far more sensitive, more Japanese; Kien follows conventional pattern for willows, Hyakusen treats them as soft, windblown surface, Hyakusen is lovingly concerned w. textures, w. construction of house, w. ruffling of water by wind; his is a poetic a sensuous involvement w. world that is quite beyond Kien.  His fresh, even ingenuous approach is seen for instance in drawing of middle-ground houses; that they so clearly anticipate Buson Is no accident; Buson, who likewise was a poet as well as a ptr, clearly learned a great deal from him, as did Taiga. 

S.S. In this LS ptg by Hyakusen, now in a US collection, he explores the new possibilities of roch, grassy surfaces built up w. soft brushstrokes—effects suite unknown to Jap. ptg earlier.  Again, Buson was his heir, as were others.  The result is a new style, not dust an imitation; and a very satisfying picture.  

S.S. In some of his ptgs, he imitates Chinese styles of late Ming period very closely one can even identify the artist he's imitation, sometimes. Here, prob., Ts'ui Tgu-chung.  He understands better than any other Jap. ptr of his time the values of brushwork in Ch ptg, and of subtle plays of ink tone; uses them to define forms, clarify their relat. in space. 

S. What is ordinarily said abt how early Nanga artists unfamiliar w. Ch. brushwork, because they worked in a large part from woodblock books rather than from orig. ptgs, has to be qualified for case of Hyakusen.  Perhaps of Chinese ancestry is this significant?  Not ready to say.  He is an artist who demands a lot more attn.; I myself mean to work seriously on him in coming year in Japan. Ptr of remarkable breadth doing things that no other Jap ptr of his age was capable of.  And yet never highly regarded as ptr.  His surviving productions display such diversity of style that hard to see whole, as coherent artistic fig.  

S. Ikeno Taiga is another complex figure, whose works also display an amazing diversity.  In earliest work in exhib., charming handscroll of 1750 we see him working in linear style; little substance of forms, little modulation of any kind in brushwork.  Can do entertaining ptgs this way, but not moving ones, or great ones. 

S.S. Taiga was heavily affected by his study of Chinese picture books printed by woodblock, espec. Mustard Seed Garden Manyal of Ptg., of which good Jap. edition was available by his time, in addition to Ch, ones.  Here is ptg in Freer Gal., one of pair, rep. Red Cliff.  Drawing in deep back, hard line color shading smooth ft sudden trees done w. comb, of ink pattern ft color wash.  

S. Source of all this seen if ptg. compared w. leaf from Mustard Seed Garden Manual Taiga has simply transmuted a print style into a painting style.  Whether he assume Ch ptgs looked like the prints-which of course they don't-- hard to say. What matters is that with this as his basis, he was able to create brilliant ft original new style, one that was completely Japanese, not derivative in any negative sense. And it's when he does so that Taiga comes into his down as artist of first rank. Here, transformation not really thorough drawing rather heavy-handed, forms don't hold together ideally, little solidity or depth. 

S.S. A screen rep, the views of Hsiao & Hsiang, similar to one that was to have been in exhib. but was deleted, represents the style of Taiga that seems to me 

his finest, in which elements of Woodblock style have been turned into a decorative manner of great beauty, quite in harmony w. Japanese trad. of Kōrin; which was certainly a strong inf. on Taiga. "Pointillist" treatment of tree foliage derives from necessities of block-cutting—but done by Taiga in spots of color, in way that strikes us, of course, as anticipating Seurat or Signac.  However one may feel abt that—limitation of tech to certain areas of course constitutes fundamental dif. from Seurat's method—it provides an enchanting visual surface, at that nice point between naturalistic description and abstraction that the scholar-artists of both China 4 Japan so often seem to be aiming for. 

S. Detail, from reprod. in book by Mr. Suzuki Sumumu, leading Japanese authority on Nanga, who has eyes for its abstract qual., whom I would certainly exempt from my remark on the traditionalism of Jap. scholarship of Nanga, and to whom I owe a great deal of what I have learned about it.  Taiga is an artist to be seen close-up much e details needed not a great compositionalist, but provides many small delights to anyone willing to become absorbed into fabric of his ptgs. 

S.S. Happily, this most engaging style of Taiga’s is superbly represented in a single screen in exhib., belonging to Mr. & Mrs. Jackson Burke, who are, for this exhib., the real founders of the feast.  Composition of whole features a flattening of space, tilting of ground plane, that is part of Jap. heritage of Sotatsu & Korea.  By the time he paints this, Taiga is totally in command of his resources, self-sufficient & sure. He is able to set massive forms agst delicate ones and hold them all in balance; he can repeat patterns over extended areas without ever inducing monotony; distort space w„ a fine freedom, all the while making it clear ft plausible. 

S. Full of such subtleties as setting pure white of robe agst ivory white of 

Paper; color-dotted tree foliage.  He creates an extraordinary sense of space 

in context of flat, repeated patterns.  Same can be said of great dec. school masters. 

S. Genius of Jap ptrs often in capacity for giving sense of endless variety w/in 

decorative repetitions of shapes; this is just what Taiga does.  Control of ink 

gradations has much to do w. it. 

S. Two more details let's just look.  

S. Another 

S. In other ptgs, Taiga achieves effects that are unknown to art otherwise before van Gogh—this one of most remarkable of his ptgs, LS of Mt. O-mei.  The intensity and visual excitement evoked here raise Taiga far above the routine level of so much of his work--and in that routine category I would include the Views of Kyoto and Six Distances landscapes in the exhibition.  This is a side of Taiga that I would have stressed sore, if quite free in selection.  

S. On the other hand, two very fine works were added by Bunkacho album of 

LS in Suntory Mus, and this very beautiful "White Clouds and Red-leafed Trees." 

S.S. 0ne of the artists I mentioned who seems to me unjustly neglected is Kuwayama Gyokushū, who seldom appears in Jap, exhibitions or books on Nanga, but should. This ptg by him in show; first deleted, then, on protest, restored.  Like Taiga, works in combination of flat areas of color and repeated linear or dotted patterns, and tension between this existence of ptg as abstract pattern and its existence as image of nature gives It much of its interest, Gyokushū was the one who said Kōrin should, be included in "So. School" (Nanga) of Japan; evidently admired him.  But dec. style as practiced by earlier Jap. artists tended to be rather bland in expression; best of Nanga masters combine visual appeal of that trad. w. expressive intensity of Ch. individualist masters. 

S.S.  Two leaves from album by this extraordinary painter. I am continually amazed & a bit depressed that so many people, including certain reviewers of exhib., insist on seeing all Oriental ptgs, whatever they may look like, as essentially the same thing, that is, as sensitive & evocative interpretations of nature, always imbued with a   special Oriental spirituality. If one could somehow reprod., ptg by one of Fauves In Ink & colors on silk & mount it as scroll & exhibit it as Japanese, they would say the same things abt it.  Well. 

S.S.  A somewhat milder but also very int. artist of this period, not rep. in exhib,. is KōFuyō, seen here in alb. owned by Burkes.  He, too, sees Chinese conventions for their potential as pattern; Chinese way of applying texture to rocks, used here with high degree of uniformity, for very rich, tactile surfaces.  Alb. In Chinese styles again, like Hyakusen's, ptg that could only have been done w. some knowledge of Chinese originals behind it.  And also like Hyakusen, creative use of source, by no means mere copy. 

S. Ptr who is not one of my favorites, but who is now rep. In show, is Noro Kaiseki. Studied w. Gyokushu, perhaps later w. Taiga.  Year before he ptg this, 1810, had chance to see  & copy version of famous work by Ch. master Huang Kung-wang; greatly affected his style.  Here he imitates HKW style (or late derivative of it) in rather dry & mechanical ways may have seemed interesting to his contemp., to whom style was new, but in historical perspective, I think it loses its interest, except as document. 

S.S. One of great masters of Hang is Buson; these are two very fine ptgs by him in exhib. Buson, although always aspired w. Taiga, was a very dif. kind of artist.  He has the eye of a poet, both attached to sensuous surface of the world & seeking for underlying meanings.  Abstract patterns & emphatic visual stimulation have little place in his formal repertory where Taiga likes to pull ptg to front plane, make it vibrate there, Buson draws back into soft depths in love w. sunlight, wind, the leafy textures of bamboo groves and trees, the flowing surfaces of hills.  His attachment to all the shifting appearance of natural scenery, and the sensitivity with which he portrays it, make him something of an exceptional figure among Nanga artists; if we looked to the others for these qualities, most of them would receive low marks. Both these paintings show this side of Buson at its best.  

S. Early work, in exhib,--interesting for showing early stage in his dev., but this an academic concern I wouldn't have put it in exhib.  Harsh, heavy-handed style; lacks qualities we admire in Buson, w/o others to compensate.  

S.S  As a poet, Buson transmits feeling of being in nature; draws in quite dif. range of responses than Taiga, evoking direct, first-hand emotional exper., where Taiga plays on the culturally conditioned and the allusive.  These details are from screen owned by Burkes. 

S.S. "Night Over the City"--ptg we failed to get—city of Kyoto, in snow; few spots of red, to suggest warmth, but sombre wintry sky hangs over it all, A poet's ptg: simple, direct, w/o obvious finish or refinement. From Ch. p.v. would look unpardonably sloppy; their simple rule is never muddle up your washes. But Buson has done just that, and makes the result turn into passage that is exactly right for rendering the appearance and the feel of a night sky with flurries of snow. (Mt, Fuji in exhib, has some of same qual.)

S.S. Lovely ptg of crow in night sky in shows but his real masterpiece in this subject is this pair of crows on snowy branch. Buson ptgs at best function  as penetrating revelations of very central facts about their subject, as works of Zen Buddhisg masters of Sung period do; and they belong in that tradition. More dashing and witty than early ink-monochrome ptgs a less serious; but superb, on own terms. If we were to generalize abt the pervasive theme of Buson`s ptgs, would say it is the effects of the natural environment on those who live in it, whether people or crows?  That would cover everything from the effect of natural beauty, which inspires poetic emotion, to the effect of cold, which causes people to huddle in their houses & crows to hunch their shoulders and sit out the winter.

S.S.  Even pure LS, such as Buson's ptg of Mt. O-mei in China, partakes of this character; although seems to be direct response of artist to mountain that supplies content of ptg, actually based on a poem by Li PoBuson never saw the place--so again, it is human response to nature rather than scene itself that is theme of ptg.  But of course imbued also w. Buson's own experiences of mountaintops moonlit nights.

S. Uragaml Gyokudō, next great master of Nanga, has something of same qual. in some of his quieter works, such as this "Green Pines & Russet Valleys" of 1807. Impart to viewer feeling of being in pine forest, not just looking at it forces an emotional imaginative involvement in scenes he paints by insisting on strong visual involvement, One can't just stand back & absorb a Gyokudo ptg, as an image separate from you; ptgs, insistently draw you in.  Other ptg, 1792, reveals Gyokudo at a stage before he had mastered the skill of organizing ptg around clear theme, repeating forms & strokes to unify playing larger agst smaller forms, generally giving ptg a structure. In addition to special values I'm speaking of, normal aesthetic values of course continue to apply and when, as in this earlier ptg, artist makes all parts of composition about even in weight, w/o any unifying formal theme, likely to fragment his picture surface, as Gyokudo does here.  Color also ineffective as organizing elements he abandons it.  Interesting picture, but doesn't represent great Gyokudo.

S.S. Once Gyokudo is in full control of his means, he is free to appear out of control, w/o sacrificing basic formal values.  Play of dense & empty areas on surface, relat, bet. dark patches of trees & those of mountaintops, in typical later work, fascination w. bowed or avoid shapes, give ptg its fundamental structure within this, he can loosen disciplines of brush mvt., to reach high pitch of visual stimulation, suggest kind of intoxication. I won't try again here to describe this effect, or analyze way he achieves it, but will only ask that you spend enough time w. his ptgs to experience it for yourselves.  Quality of "controlled disorder", sought by Chinese indiv. artists as well, marvelously captured here.

S.S.  Of the two acknowledged masterpieces of Gyokudo, we failed to get one-- the great winter LS titled Toun Shisetsu owned by Kawabata Yasunari— a National Treasurebut the did get the other, the album titled Enka-jō or "Album of Mists and Clouds, ptd. around 1811. In this album, relatively placid leaves alternate w. others charged w. wild exhilaration. Tightly composed Autumn Scene, in which space created by visual separation of fine-line patterns a patches of red-brown color or ink wash the former pull forward, visually, the latter push back.  Other is all line, movement, no space, no stable structure; irresistible rising mvt created, which culminates in twisting mountaintop that shoots out top of picture.  Now, experience of seeing an album consists of a succession of encounters w. sequence of learns; artist plans it as such, alternations etc.  Some of this character lost in way album must be shown in exhib; no help for that.

S. Seen in the single work in our show, Gyokudo`s contemp. Okada Beisanjin might seem to be an artist of comparable stature; like Gyokudo, has his own highly formal language, uses it for ptg of great clarity & purity.  But having spoken of these qualities, one is close to having exhausted the attractions of Beisanjin; artist who repeats himself to point of monotony, and who seldom seems very deeply involved, either with natural scenery or the forms of his painting.

S. When he relaxes and tries to get more variety into his ptgs, the result is what you see here--lower half of Beisanjin LS in Seattle Art Mus.—loses coherence elements of picture seem formally unrelated, like collection of offhand inventions.

S.S. His son Hankō I spoke of in the catalog as a far more serious and capable artist, who can carry off with ease complex compostions that are quite beyond ability of father.  Bad slides of beautiful ptg in exhib.  Seems to have had access to more and better Ch. Ptgs; judging from his inscriptions, and from the traces of their styles that are to be seen in his own works.  Little question that the far greater formal & spatial complexity of his ptg depends upon Hanko`s studies of Chinese Works; he attempts & achieves things here for which Jap. Tradition would supply no precedent.  Says he is copying work by Tung C-c; hard to say what it could have been; prob. No Tung in Japan, and little if any sign of his style; but prob. Fine Ch. Ptg of some kind provided him with new technical means, which encouraged him to attempt so ambitious a composition.

S.S.  Will show briefly two more very fine Hanko ptgs that indicate rang of his style. This one surely owes its structural principles to some 17th cent.  Ch ptg, in disposition of powerful, blocky masses to build geometric framework, to which he adds charming detail and which he softens by application of horiz. strokes, tech, also learned from 17c. Chinese.  Detail reveal freshness, unhackneyed manner in which he performs all this.

S.S. Another, ansc. by father--so before 1820, fairly early.  After Wang Hui, Ch. orthodox ptr whose works we know from, recent exhib. Of Earl Morse col. But here Hanko, like others before him, turns Chinese style into Jap. one, specifically, insistent repetitiveness of Wang's brushwork transformed into decorative pattern in Jap. taste. Want Hui would not have approved; Taiga or Gyokushū would have.

Now, statement I made before, that Nanga ptg neither improved nor hurt by its proximity to Chinese styles can be broadened.  Technical skills they learned from China sometimes a positive value, but so, at other times, is attractive amateurishness. Naturalistic values can contribute to beauty & expressive depth of ptg, but so can abstract values. These are; contributing factors, but basic values, as in all good- art, are those of formal coherence, unity in variety, clarity in complexity, dynamic interplay of parts, etc.--these are the indispensable qualities.  Difficult to define roles of these ingredients in aesthetic experience—perhaps good analogy would be cooking, another Chinese art, in which function of food as nourishment is basic and irreducible, but an infinity of tastes & textures can be superimposed on this--none of them, strictly speaking, essential, yet they are what give the piece: its individuality and its flavor--fact that vocabulary overlaps suggests that the analogy is valid, and not orig,w. me.

S.S. Two contemp. & friends, Mokubei & Chikuden, regularly paired by Jap. Wrters (and by me in catalog): rep. two dif. Stylistic directions, temperaments.

Mokubei seems to me one of the somewhat overrated Japanese artists. In great Tokyo Nat`l Museum exhib. Of 196, he was one of five artists included.  I intended to reduce no. of Mokubei ptgs in exhib. To three or so; we end up with six.  Apart from his famous scene of Uji River, which he was so pleased with that he did it over & over, he was scarcely a strong compositionalist.  Usually puts ptgs. together out of bulging forms, as in one on right, or adopts some rather forced unifying device, as in ptg. On left; or else givers up altogether & lets it all fly apart, which often happens.  The effects he aims for are harsh, strong effects rather than subtle ones. Can be exciting, at his best; an also be exasperating: how can famous artists be so bad.

S. This ptg in exhib., 1830, one of most successful; his principle of organization is system of diagonals that cuts ptg into triangles & lozenges; everything conforms to his, even mists move in zig-zag patterns.  But this is mode of ptg of which the merits are soon exhausted; and an artist should, I think, have higher rate of success than Mokubei does to rank among the great masters.  (If someone comes back at me saying same is true of Tessai, whom I have sponsored so enthusiastically, I will be hard put for reply.)

S.S. Chikuden rep. in exhib. By spec. fine series of works; if you don`t like Chikuden after seeing these, never will. His virtues arise from restraint, rather than forcefulness or abandon; he produces his ptgs by patient, cumulative applications of small strokes and color washes of limited extent.  This tech., which leads to ptg of special softness & richness of surface, learned from late 18th & early 19th cent.  Ch ptrs, probably – same qual. In their works. (Problem: could Chikuden have known Chìen Tu.) Uses color w. great subtlety, but for decorative variegation, not like pointillists and impress., to render fall of light on forms.  Still similarities striking.

S.S. Chikuden's album, Mata-mata ichiraku-jo, which I-rendered, a bit
fancifully, as "Yet again one more pleasure," was
ptg. ptd in l831-2; finest
leaves are series of is, including lovely scene, of man playing flute in boat
by, moonlight.  Here, as. w
. Buson & some Taiga-, it is poetic values that we
must take into account, literary values.  Other, tells of shutting one's self
away from world, waiting for visits of old friends, this too is-one pleasure,
Ptgs can be enjoyed purely as beautiful pictures; but also full of echoes of
Chinese literati culture, pleasures of seclusion or seeing old friends, special
values assoc. with that long, incomparably rich trad.  Meaning of ptgs pertains,
as it nearly always does in
F.E. ptg, to an interpenetration of human and
natural worlds, rather than to either alone.

S.S. With this generation, European inf. on Jap ptg more marked; we have to take account of still another kind ,of value: historical value, importance of work of art as document of crosscultural relations.  Bunchō, on right, exemplifies this pleasant sketch, but scarcely within Nanga taste or style.   Left, Kazan's sketch for his family portrait of Ichikawa Beian, who had a goiter, considered a masterwork of early-modern realism, either this or finished ptg appears in virtually every Jap., book on Nanga, juat about my first stipulation on planning this exhibition was that we would not have to include the portrait of Ichikawa Beian, in that, at least, we were successful.

S. Kazan's LS title "Weaving by Moonlight on the other hand, is a fascinating, and beautiful work on any terms, doesn't depend on historical interest, although lots of that: Western style; subject that, had implications in political philosophy (Confucian emphasis on agriculture and small industry, fostered by Tokagawa goft); circumstances  under which ptg. done, Kazan under house arrest killed self shortly afterwards.  But ptg. exists independently of all this as technically superb, well composed, evocative rendering of moonlit scene, full of observed detail.

S.S. Finally, pair of artists active in Hagoya in mid-19c, Ghikutō and Baiitsu. These too always paired: but again, like Taiga & Buson, or Mokubei & Chikuden, very dif. ptrs, Chikuto needn't occupy us long, although is interesting figure in history of  Nanga; did a lot of theoretical writing, pub. books on how to paint in various Chinese styles;  but in fact, artist of very limited breadth.  A style, for whim, amounted to one or another schematic system of brushstrokes and forms; can sometimes put those together into attractive compositions, but seldom in such a way as to involve viewer closely, or move him.

S.S. The works of Baiitsu, by contrast, have among their virtues a great stylistic variety & schematic inventiveness, a real concern with air and light and natural textures.  One of pair of screens in Freer Gallery, certainly his finest works of Baiitsu outside Japan.  Scholars drinking tea beneath pines (other is fishermen drinking wine beneath willows; class distinction in art.) Baiitsu has mastered all the tech., of Chinese ptg for rendering space capable of handling nuances of ink tone, subtleties of touch w. brush, that are scarcely to be matched in Nanga.

S. He too has passages that belong, in the end, to Jap, trad, of ink monochrome more than to Chinese—Tōhagu, Yūjshō-- (won't try to define that here.)

S.S. Ptg in exhib. He is best known as b & f ptr in Japan, and in this, too, prob. best of late period.  But his landscapes, relatively neglected, seem to me his major achievements, forks out problem of depth in way hardly known before in Jap. ptg, where general effect of depth common enough (heritage of Sung ptg) but this kind of logical, systematic manipulation of space was not.  And yet, technical mastery not to be equated with quality  much of emotional force of best works of period of Taiga & Buson and Gyokudo lost by now, uses his superlative technique in cool, rather detached way.

S. Techn. learned, again, from studies of Ch ptg; both later, Ming-Ch'ing works, and earlier—here, one of pair of LS in Kōtōin, anon. 13th cent, works, sometimes att. to Li T'ang.

S.S. Some of Baiitsu has monumentality that suggests study of even earlier Ch LS styles, those of No. Sung.  This large, powerful LS done in 1853, when Baiitsu was 75. Dramatic in its contrasts of sunlight and shadow, and in its alternation of massive forms with hollows of space. By this time, no painter in China who was able to do this kind of ambitious, imposing LS, their aims and achievements were in quite a different direction. Yet, this is culmination of process of sinicization of Nanga, never came closer to its models.  Curiously, the moments in the hist, of Nanga when the ptgs look so Chinese that they might almost be mistaken for works of Ch. artists are at the beginning and the end--most of all, in certain works of Hyakusen and Baiitsu (taking him as the end of the main dev. of the school—Tessai is kind of aftermath), while the greatest moments of Nanga come in the generations between.  This seems to me, if these judgments are accepted, a final confirmation of the view that sees Nanga as fundamentally a Japanese school of painting, in which Chinese influence constantly played an important role, contributing techniques and new stylistic ideas that Jap. artists found useful and attractive, but did not, in the sad, serve as a determinant of artistic value the ptgs were good, when they were, in ways more Japanese than Chinese. .


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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...