Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

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Figure in a mountainous landscape


    • currently in research collection

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  • Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum by Janice Katz

    Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum

    A solitary figure sits on the railing of a bridge gazing at the mountainside. He appears to be an ordinary Japanese man (not a Chinese literatus with attendants) who went to the scene quite deliberately. Neither is he a traveller, for he has no bags, walking stick nor hat with him and does not seem to be on his way to gather wood, or to the market. This leaves one to speculate whether the painting is a self-portrait, or a portrait of a friend done by the artist to commemorate a specific place.

    In contrast to the peaceful gaze of the figure is the landscape, which appears to encroach upon him. Broken and quivering brushstrokes are used throughout the image, whether for rock faces or tree branches. The mountains in the middle- ground lean in towards the centre and huddle around the figure. What is more, the mountains in the distance have just as much detail in parts as those in the foreground, resulting in a rather complex, flattened landscape.

    The artist, Ono Unpō, was a follower of Shibata Gitō (1780-1819), and a native of Nagao in Bitchū province (present-day Okayama). He used the name of Shōun in Kyoto [A work by this artist done during his time in Kyoto is published in the Museum of Kyoto, Miyako no eshi wa hyakka ryoran, Heian jinbutsu shi ni miru Edo jidai no Kyoto gadan (The Blooming of Hundreds of Flowers: Painters of Edo Period Kyoto in the Heian-jimbutsu-shi) (Kyoto: The Museum of Kyoto, 1998) 141], but signed his works ‘Unpo’ after returning to his hometown. He was no doubt part of the same family as Ono Senzō, a farmer and student of Confucianism and Chinese poetry, and a patron of the famous scholar and poet Rai Sanyō (1780-1832) [for the Ono family of farmer-patrons, see Yoko Woodson, ‘Traveling Bunjin Painters and Their Patrons: Economic Life, Style and Art of Rai Sanyō and Tanomura Chikuden’ (Ph.D. thesis, University of California, Berkeley, 1983), 31-2, 110-22]. Unpō often used the seal reading ‘ki’, and should not be confused with Kameda Unpō (1857-?) or Ōoka Unpō (1764-1848).

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