Landscape in the style of Shen Zhou

A typical literati theme is invoked for the subject of the scroll. Approaching a simple cottage at the foot of a rolling mountain is a scholar in a boat who sits back while the boatman poles the craft across a lake. An empty pavillion high on a mountain ledge brings Ni Tsan to mind and serves also to allude to the beauty of the panorama below. Soft mist blurs the diagonal view into the far distance at each side of the main land mass, and sprinklings of spiky grass and expressive moss-dots impart a rhythmic quality to the scene. The trees are rendered with many kinds of lush foliage patterns, using combinations of dark and light and thick and thin inkstones.

Maker(s)
Artist: Nakanishi Koseki (1807-1884) Shen Zhou 沈周 (1427-1509)
Historical period(s)
Edo period or Meiji era, third quarter 19th century
Medium
Ink on paper
Dimensions
H x W: 47.3 x 76.3 cm (18 5/8 x 30 1/16 in)
Geography
Japan
Credit Line
Gift of the Charlottesville/Albermarle Foundation for the Encouragement of the Arts in memory of Harold P. Stern
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1978.10a-c
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Type

Hanging scroll

Keywords
boat, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, kakemono, landscape, Meiji era (1868 - 1912), mountain, water, WWII-era provenance
Provenance

To 1977
Dr. Frederick Baekeland, New York City, to 1977 [1]

1977
Charlottesville/Albemarle Foundation for the Encouragement of the Arts, Charlottesville, VA, purchased from Frederick Baekeland in 1977 [2]

From 1977
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charlottesville/Albemarle Foundation for the Encouragement of the Arts in 1977 [3]

Notes:

[1] Frederick Baekeland sold this object to the Charlottesville/Albemarle Foundation for the Encouragement of the Arts, Virginia for the purpose of donating it to the Freer Gallery of Art in memory of Dr. Harold P. Stern (see Curatorial Note 5 in object record).

[2] See note 1.

[3] The object was transferred from the Freer Study Collection to the Freer Permanent Collection on March 3, 1978.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charlottesville/Albemarle Foundation for the Encouragement of the Arts
Dr. Frederick Baekeland

Description

A typical literati theme is invoked for the subject of the scroll. Approaching a simple cottage at the foot of a rolling mountain is a scholar in a boat who sits back while the boatman poles the craft across a lake. An empty pavillion high on a mountain ledge brings Ni Tsan to mind and serves also to allude to the beauty of the panorama below. Soft mist blurs the diagonal view into the far distance at each side of the main land mass, and sprinklings of spiky grass and expressive moss-dots impart a rhythmic quality to the scene. The trees are rendered with many kinds of lush foliage patterns, using combinations of dark and light and thick and thin inkstones.

Inscription(s)

1. (Julia K. Murray, excerpted from entry 57, A Decade of Discovery, 1979) On the painting, the artist uses the signature Koseki Hisashi, Koseki being his art-name and Hisashi part of his original name, Nakanishi Hasashi. Three of his seals appear on the work. In the lower right-hand corner there is a tall rectangular seal with the intaglio legend Sekizan-danryu. A pale, relief seal reading Sosashi appears before the inscriptions. An intaglio double-seal impressed over his signature at the lower end of the inscription is partially illegible; the lower half consists of the characters Koseki.

In much the same way that his contemporaries on the continent invoked certain earlier masters, Koseki's inscription discusses the merits of Ni Tsan's (1301-1374) "archaic blandness" (ku-tan) as compared to Shen Chou's (1427-1509) vigorous, assertive brushwork. Concluding that Ni was hampered by an inability to be carefree and casual, Koseki praises the broad, expansive spirit that pervades Shen Chou's work and asserts that his own landscape is painted in Shen's style.

Label

Japanese painters of the Nanga school admired and followed the styles and cultural ideals of Chinese scholar-painters. During the nineteenth century, Nanga painters were able to study genuine Chinese paintings rather than the illustrated print books that had served as painting manuals for eighteenth-century artists.

In this painting, Nakanishi Koseki, who pursued his study of painting in the Osaka-Kyoto region, closely followed the style of the Chinese painter Shen Zhou (1427-1509).  In Koseki's inscription, written above the landscape, he praised Shen Zhou's vigorous and free brushwork, which he strove to follow in his portrayal of a scholar approaching a secluded cottage by boat.

The spontaneity of Koseki's brushwork and his masterly control of ink tones closely resembles the work of his Chinese paragon.

Published References
  • Julia Murray. A Decade of Discovery: Selected Acquisitions 1970-1980. Exh. cat. Washington, 1979. cat. 57, p. 75.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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