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

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Flowering gourd plant


    • currently in research collection

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  • Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum by Janice Katz

    Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum

    Bunmei has painted a flowering gourd plant in ink, with just a touch of yellow in the centre of the open blossom. The thin stems of the flowers grow out of a base of broad leaves, and a small gourd is seen forming on the right. Spirals of delicate calligraphic lines form the plant’s tendrils. Bunmei is obviously a master of controlling the ink through painting techniques, however here he combines this with an obviously careful study of nature.

    Although one of Maruyama Ōkyo’s ten best pupils, details of Bunmei’s life are scarce and extant paintings by him are extremely few. He is especially well known as the writer of the biography of Maruyama Ōkyo, the Sensai Maruyama sensei den. In 1790, Bunmei was part of Ōkyo’s workshop that produced wall paintings for the Imperial Palace, and he also executed paintings for Daijōji temple of which a painting of wisteria and birds, an Important Cultural Property, is extant [published in Minamoto and Sasaki, 50, 191]. That composition displays the same controlled handling of the brush without making the composition look contrived as in the Ashmolean’s fan painting. Bunmei is able to show the real complexity of organic forms as they grow and twist, while managing to produce neat and pleasing pictorial compositions.

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