A Tale of Five Painters – Part VII

Summary and Epilogue

dtpHelsinki-0007 1.jpgThis series starts to behave like Douglas Adam’s “increasingly inaccurately named” Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy in five installments: it just keeps adding new parts. But I will stop after this one, I promise…

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A Tale of Five Painters – Part VI

Hasegawa Tōhaku

In the year 2000 an exhibition in Zürich, Switzerland was dedicated to a single Japanese painter, or even: a single painting of that artist. That painting, in reviews of the exhibition, was hailed as an equal to da Vinci’s Mona Lisa and as the most important Japanese ink painting. That is quite some hyperbole, not often seen in describing Asian works of art. Still, I think, it was deserved. And if you have read the articles in this series so far, you are well prepared to see it as well, because everything we have found so far, now comes together in one single picture.

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A Tale of Five Painters – Part V


Sesshū Tōyō

With Sesshū (1420-1506) we leave China and enter Shogun-era Japan. We also have a richer set of biographical data about the artist and Zen-monk. Foremost, we know about his journey to China in 1468/69.On this journey Sesshū seemingly learned about the Southern Song Masters, especially Ma Yuan and Xia Gui. While no works from that time are preserved, it is said that Sesshū immediately started to copy their style – and we can see a strong influence of these masters all through Sesshū’s later works (see for exampleSesshū’s most famous work: The Landscapes of the Four Seasons.

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A Tale of Five Painters – Part IVa

Muqi Fachang (Muqi)

Six Persimmons-Muqi
Muqi “Six Persimmons”

As I try to keep the length of each post to about 600 words (not that I easily would succeed), I might have to split this part about Muqi (1210-1269) in two. This is not because he would be more important than the other four painters, but because he is a kind of pivot between Southern Song painting and later Japanese zen-influenced art. Living as a Zen monk in the later part of the Southern Song dynasty he shared the fate of Ma Yuan and Xia Gui to being, after a short period of fame, first belittled and then forgotten in China. His work only survived in Japan. But there, the “Six Persimmons” are revered as a first pinnacle of Zen art and is kept at the Daitokuji temple in Kyoto.

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A Tale of Five Painters – Part III

Xia Gui

Xia Gui-Left -1.jpgThe second painter in this series, Xia Gui 1195-1224 was a younger contemporary of Ma Yuan and like him a master at the imperial academy of the Song court. Like Ma, Xia Gui was known for his unusual compositional style with all the weight of the painting at the bottom edge. Few (confirmed) paintings by Xia Gui have survived, but fortunately his “Pure and Remote View of Mountains and Streams” has and is now at the National Palace Museum in Taipei. This painting has cemented Xia’s fame and is one of my all-time favorites. But in presenting it here, I am facing quite a few obstacles.

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A Tale of Five Painters – Part II

Ma Yuan

The first artist in this series, Ma Yuan (1160-1225), came from a family of painters, who were all serving at the imperial court of the Song Dynasty as members of the painting academy.  As with all the masters mentioned in this series I won’t go into the biographical data (which usually anyhow are rather sparse and can be found behind the link). Instead I will focus on looking at some of their works.


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