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Uragami Gyokudo (1745 - 1820)



October 16, 1990
New York, NY, US

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Hanging scroll, ink on paper within a double line border in red ink. 31.3 x 38.3 cm., signed " Gyokudo Sekinen nanaju " "Gyokudo at the age of seventy years" (1814), sealed " Takeuchi Daijin no Ei, " mounted on brocade, in fitted and inscribed wood box within box PROVENANCE Ito Goro, Osaka PUBLISHED Narazaki Muneshige. "Uragami Gyokudo hitsu un-en jusho zu", " Kokka " No. 678 (Tokyo 1948), pl. 6, pp. 244-249 LITERATURE Stephen Addiss, " Tall mountains and flowing water: The arts of Uragami Gyokudo " (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987) Gyokudo was a literati " (bunjinga or Nanga) " painter from a samurai family and was best known in his day as an accomplished musician and poet. He played the Chinese zither " (chin) " and composed long chant-like melodies over complex overlapping rhythmic structures. His poetry is written in Chinese five or seven character regulated verse. Late in life, two years after the death of his wife in 1792, he gave up his hereditary position as personal attendant to the feudal lord of Bizen and became a wanderer. During these years he began to paint seriously and in 1811 settled in Kyoto. His masterpieces were painted during these final years in Kyoto. Working on paper in monochrome ink he developed a unique personal style by overlaying gray and black ink, wet and dry brushwork, in complex rhythmic patterns of horizontal and vertical strokes This painting is inscribed by the artist at the age of seventy (sixty-nine by Western count). The use of an enclosed outline format is characteristic of works he produced around the age of seventy. The nearly abstract forms he creates are more restrained than earlier and are depicted with a larger number of less obtrusive brushstrokes. Textures are dense and dry, the composition controlled and beautifully balanced Human figures (two fishermen and solitary scholar crossing a bridge) are dwarfed by the awesome majesty of nature. A small open pavilion high in the painting offers a view onto a series of powerful thrusting mountain forms. Rounded plateaus appearing as blank shapes are a trademark of Gyokudo's mountains; they seem to emphasize the animation of the surrounding brushwork. In this painting the large round plateau, open pavilion and distant waterfall beneath a squared dark mountain mass help focus the eye on the center of the composition, and simultaneously create an unsettling shift of perspective Stephen Addiss has written of Gyokudo that "as an artist he risked all, including incomprehension from his viewers, to express his union with the most powerful forces of nature. People in his own day found this vision difficult to accept. After the warfare and turmoil of the twentieth century, perhaps we are better able to understand a painter who strips away the external beauties of nature to express its deeper creativity and occasional violence". This painting, as well as the landscape by Tani Buncho (lot 177), was originally in an album of seventeen paintings in the collection of Ito Goro, Osaka. There was an inscription on the album box lid by " Nanga " painter Tanomura Chokunyu (1814-1907) dated 1866. The title slip on the original album was written by the Kyoto " Nanga " painter Fujimoto Tesseki (1817-63). Among the other " Nanga " artists represented in the album were Yosa Buson, Aoki Mokubei, Tanomura Chikuden, Watanabe Kazan, Okada Hanko, Okada Beisanjin, Rai Sanyo, and Takahashi Sohei Another hanging scroll by Gyokudo dated 1814 is in the Mary and Jackson Burke collection, New York.

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