Summer mountains with two huts

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  • Catalogue text

    Aigai produced this loosely rendered landscape by holding the brush horizontally and overlaying the ink ‘dots’ in progressively darker tonalities. This technique was known as ‘Mi dots’ after the Song period Chinese artist and calligrapher Mi Fu (1052-1107), and became a standard way of depicting a summer mountain scene in nineteenth-century Japan. Here the artist has rendered two distant mountain peaks, as well as a cluster of trees in the foreground behind which appears a pair of modest huts.

    Takaku Aigai was originally from Shimotsuke province (Tochigi), however he went to Edo to practice his trade where he came to the attention of Tani Bunchō. His skill was such that among all of Bunchō’s disciples, whose numbers were considerable, Aigai was considered one of the two the most talented (the other was Watanabe Kazan). Before reaching that stage, however, Aigai was unsuccessful at gaining any notoriety and spent much time travelling and sketching landscapes. On his travels, he copied many paintings in temples and shrines to expand his large repertoire of techniques.

    Another painting of summer mountains by Aigai done in the Mi style is hailed as one of the pre-eminent Japanese works in this manner [ Kokka 583 (June 1939), plate 5 and page 187]. It is signed Sorin gaishi, as is the Ashmolean image, and dated 1836. The two compositions have much in common such as the same lush trees in the foreground, and the use of empty space throughout to indicate

    mist. As opposed to his teacher Bunchō’s many paintings of summer mountains in the Mi Fu manner [Three are reproduced in Kōno, Tani Bunchō, 57-60.], Aigai uses just enough wash to produce a soft effect while keeping each brushstroke distinct.

    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. 12 on pp. 68-69, p. 39, illus. pp. 68-69

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