White Chrysanthemums

In elegant Japanese cursive “hiragana” calligraphy distinguished by its free, open forms and composition, the artist has written a Japanese “waka” verse of her own composition. Her use of very dry ink makes the lines seem ephemeral. The poem reads:

shiragiku no
makura ni chikaku
kaoru yo wa
yume mo ikuyo no
aki kaeruran

White chrysanthemums
near my pillow
perfume the night
these dreams of many nights of
autumn will not return

Painted below is a spray of white chrysanthemums, painted in ink with subtle tints of blue and reddish brown tones. The composition completes the calligraphy above in scale and mood.

Maker(s)
Artist: Ōtagaki Rengetsu 大田垣蓮月 (1791-1875)
Historical period(s)
Edo period or Meiji era, ca. 1850-1875
Medium
Ink and color on paper
Dimensions
H x W (image): 99.8 × 29 cm (39 5/16 × 11 7/16 in)
Geography
Japan, Kyoto
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1997.14
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Type

Hanging scroll

Keywords
autumn, chrysanthemum, cursive script, Edo period (1615 - 1868), Japan, kakemono, Meiji era (1868 - 1912), WWII-era provenance
Provenance
Provenance research underway.
Description

In elegant Japanese cursive "hiragana" calligraphy distinguished by its free, open forms and composition, the artist has written a Japanese "waka" verse of her own composition. Her use of very dry ink makes the lines seem ephemeral. The poem reads:

shiragiku no
makura ni chikaku
kaoru yo wa
yume mo ikuyo no
aki kaeruran

White chrysanthemums
near my pillow
perfume the night
these dreams of many nights of
autumn will not return

Painted below is a spray of white chrysanthemums, painted in ink with subtle tints of blue and reddish brown tones. The composition completes the calligraphy above in scale and mood.

Inscription(s)

1. From seller's invoice, 24 June 1997) Signed: "Rengetsu"; Box inscribed on outside: "Rengetsu roni jigasan" (Old nun Rengetsu's painting and inscription); Box inscribed on inside; "Shiragiku no makura ni chikaku, un'un..., Jinkoin ro Nojoen ninshi" First line of the poem, then (Old Nojoen of the Jinkoin authorized this.)

Label

Above her sketch of a blossoming chrysanthemum plant supported by a bamboo stake, the Buddhist nun Rengetsu inscribed a poem of her own composition:

White chrysanthemums
Near my pillow
Perfume the night.
These dreams of many nights of
Autumn will not return.

Rengetsu took Buddhist vows at the age of thirty-three, following a series of personal tragedies. She studied poetry composition with several Kyoto authorities and became well known not only for her verses but also for inscribing them on her own handmade ceramic teapots and bowls.

Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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