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

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Plum blossoms in snow


    • currently in research collection

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  • Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum by Janice Katz

    Japanese Paintings in the Ashmolean Museum

    Imei was a monk at the famous Shōkokuji temple (Kōgen'in subtemple) in Kyoto, known historically as a breeding ground for ink painters such as Shūbun and Sesshū prior to the Edo period. In the eighteenth century, the painter Itō Jakuchū was a lay Buddhist monk associated with the temple He became one of the most gifted artists of his time who experimented with a variety of painting styles as well as printing techniques, and kept up his association with the temple throughout his career. Imei met Jakuchū at Shōkokuji and learned his method of painting plum blossoms. The Ashmolean is fortunate to have a fan painting that so clearly expresses the artist's debt to his teacher.

    Imei has painted a simple composition of a single branch of plum blossoms that occupies the right side of the fan and extends out to into the blank area on the left. The blossoms and the snow take on the colour of the paper. Imei has carved out their shapes by covering the background with a light ink wash and using lines of darker ink for the ares of the branch or flowers that peek out from underneath the snow. It is a simple yet effective device for picturing a complex image of white snow on a white flower. This manner of painting plum blossoms was made famous by the Chinese Ming dynasty painter Liu Shiru (1517-after 1601), known to artists in Japan. The method of painting in which the colour of the paper is used like a pigment in the composition, while the background is filled with light ink wash was particularly taken up by Imei's teacher Jakuchū in paintings which date from 1790-92.

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