15.Kawai Senrô, Nishikawa Nei

15. Kawai Senrô, Nishikawa Nei (or Yasushi) From correspondence with Tamaki Maeda, who is working on Japanese collecting and understanding of Chinese paintings, and Tessai.

Kawai Senrô is a name I began hearing quite early in going around Japan talking with collectors and scholars about Chinese painting. He was a Tokyo professor, calligrapher, collector, who was a central figure in a group of jinshi-jia (kinseki-ka?) enthusiasts, who was especially known for his collection and connoisseurship of Zhao Zhiqian. In fact, when that artist came into conversations, I would get again those expressions of reverence, and the story of how Kawai had been strongly advised to take his collection and move to the country during the war, but wouldn't budge, and he and the collection were destroyed during the firebombing of Tokyo. He was an advisor to Takashima, the collector whose collection Shimada took me to see (in Kamakura? near there); much of it, including a lot of notable late Ming etc. calligraphy and fine Zhao Zhiqian--two four-seasons sets--went to the Tokyo National Museum. My favorite dealer in Japan, the late Eda Yûji of Bungadô, who had a shop {so understated that one could walk past it and not realize it was a shop--I had trouble finding it for a while) near Hongô Sanchôme, mentioned him often. I remember when he showed me a wonderful landscape leaf by Li Shan with a wonderfully chosen kami-byôsô and I commented on it, he said "That belonged to Kawai Senrô, and he chose the mounting." Through Eda I got to know the calligrapher Nishikawa Nei (or Yasushi), and in evenings with him and long sessions with Eda, felt I was getting closer to understanding this side of Chinese painting collecting and appreciation in Japan. I should say that I first was taken to Eda's place, and introduced to this whole subject, by an old Tokyo professor of Chinese history--Ueno? can't recall--who was himself a small collector of this kind, not much money but very good taste. Nishikawa, the calligrapher, reminded me of the great swordsman in Seven Samurai--thin, intense, severe. Shimada was somewhat that way too. Nishikawa's son later had a job with the Bunkacho.

Later: Nishikawa Nei (or Yasushi). I won his good will by giving him photos made at the Freer with infra-red from the Changsha manuscript, four 8 x 10 prints of the quarters of it, which made it much more visible than any photos or reproductions made before. He studied these so rigorously that he based a whole exhibiition of his own work on the new revelations. Another time, a story about how he authenticated a Jin Nong plum ptg I had bought for the University Art Museum in Berkeley.

If you google Kawai Senrô and read the McMillan Dictionary of Art entry on him, it's fascinating—lots more than I myself knew—for instance that he went to China in 1900 and studied seal-carving with Wu Changshuo! and lots more. These people and their successors, at least into my time, were quite separate from other kinds of collecting/connoisseurship/scholarship of Chinese paintings, and were more than a bit disdainful of the establishment scholars, Suzuki Kei etc. (I myself took Suzuki to see Eda, whom he didn't even know about. A mistake: he later tried to stop a painting I was buying from Eda, after he took Yonezawa there.)

Here my Nishikawa story fits, so here we go. I acquired, for a donor who would give it to the University Art Museum in Berkeley, a Jin Nong plum (from the American dealer (living in Tokyo for many years) Alice Boney, who was good on ceramics & lacquer etc. but had no eye for painting, so one made one's own judgments. Prices were cheap. ) I showed it to Suzuki and others, who didn't pay much attention: too many bad Jin Nong plums, this was just another one. Then, with Eda (a really lovely man, I could go on about him—he was lame, very soft in the best sense, completely un-self-promoting but very knowledgeable and with exquisite taste) with Eda I took the painting to show Nishikawa. He hung it on the wall and knelt in front of it for a very long time, while we sat, apprehensive, awaiting his verdict. Then he went into another room, still silent, and came back with a volume of an impu, which turned out to be an original Jin Nong impu—impressions of original seals that is. And here comes the great moment of the story, for me. I would have rushed over and compared the corresponding seal with the one on the painting and turned to point triumphantly to their perfect match. Not Nishikawa (and I can't even type the story without eyes watering): he silently hands me the book. He already knows it's a match, but lets me find it out for myself. I've thought of this many times, as an example of how some people are more sensitive than others (such as myself.) Anyway, it was indeed a genuine and very fine Jin Nong; Nishikawa was happy, and Eda was so pleased that he had a facsimile of the painting printed on good painting paper—which, mounted, can hardly be told from the original.

All this was quite separate, as I say, not only from the Yonezawa/Suzuki/Toda establishment group, but also from the Kyoto sinologues, Shimada tops among them, tradition of (there I go again, another name vanishes—no, it's) Aoki Masaru. Never met him, but admire very much his writings.

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