Mountain landscape with figures by a river

Details

  • Catalogue text

    Bairi Sanjin, whose family name wasTerajima, is a little known artist today though he made quite a name for himself as a Nanga painter in his day in Edo. He is listed in both the Kinsei itsujin gashi [Kimura. 294.] and the Koga bikō [Asaoka Okisada, zōtei koga bikō (Kyoto: Shinbunkaku, 1970).], two nineteenth century compilations of artist’s biographies.

    He began a career in the tile business, and later in life increasingly devoted himself to painting. It is his later compositions that reveal the most creativity and masterful handling of the brush. The Ashmolean's painting is one of his few known extant works. It is dated to 1791, just seven years before the artist’s death and demonstrates the technical knowledge and confidence he achieved at the high point of his career.

    A majestic mountain done in subtle ink tones overpowers the scene in a truly monumental fashion. In the foreground, trees, rocks and river are all painted with a slightly wavy line, giving the sense that nature is indeed alive. Roots of the maple trees look as if they are about to break free from the ground, and the leaves about to blow away in the wind. The pair of trees intertwine, mimicking the closeness of the two friends who sit in conversation underneath. The men are seemingly unaware of the vitality of nature around them while an attendant fans the fire to heat up a pot of tea. However inviting it may be, the landscape is actually a static one that cannot be entered. The course of the water or dirt paths end or start abruptly, and the viewer is given no access to the landscape. Instead, our attention is drawn to the two friends enjoying a pleasant outing.

    Bairi Sanjin was an artist working in an area of Edo known as Naka no gō. He was not one to be concerned with worldly affairs, leaving the running of the household and family business to his son and rarely accepting money for his paintings. His style was said to be free, easy and unconventional, though it is clear from the two figures in this work that he was familiar with models in the Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting. The artist has successfully used his knowledge of these models, however, to create a vibrant and magical landscape. [Another painting by Bairi Sanjin of a mythical animal known as a kirin was in the collection of Umezawa Seiichi. It displays similar brushwork to the painting in the Ashmolean. See Umezawa Seiichi, Nihon nanga shi (Tokyo: Tōhō-shoin, 1929), 452].

    In: Katz, Janice, Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, with an introductory essay by Oliver Impey (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2003)

Further reading

Katz, Janice, Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, with an introductory essay by Oliver Impey (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2003), no. 9 on p. 62, p. 39, illus. p. 63

Reference URL

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