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Splashed Ink Landscape

Splashed Ink Landscape

Splashed Ink Landscape. By Soga Sojo (active 1490–approx.1512). Japan. Hanging scroll. Ink on paper. Gift and purchase from the Harry G. C. Packard Collection Charitable Trust in honor of Dr. Shujiro Shimada, 1991.63.

What is going on in this painting?
Looking carefully: do you see a landscape in this quickly brushed work? This style of painting is called “splashed ink landscape.” With a few strokes and ink washes the artist suggests mountains, a building, trees, a path, and two human figures.

What is written at the top?
The poem, written in Chinese form and characters may be translated as follows:

In the Song period there was a painter Meng Haoran,
in the Tang period there was a poet Bai Juyi (Letian).
A monk strolls in the forests and around streams,
tall pavilion and mansion glitter in gold and silver.
A few clouds float in the sky,
a distant mountain silently awaits him.
- Written by Zen Nanzen Gichiku Shurin

The poem, which mentions famous Chinese poets from the past, was likely added after the painting was complete, and may have been inspired by the painting, particularly the last four lines.

Discussion/Activity:

  1. Compare this painting with the Painting of the Buddhist Monk Daruma
    1. In two columns list adjectives describing each work; start by considering subject matter—who are the figures, what else is depicted besides the figure; then focus on how the image is painted—quickly, carefully, in detail, sketchily, etc.
    2. How much time did each artist spend on the work? Look for their brushstrokes and try to guess how many strokes were used in each work.
    3. What mood is conveyed in each—serious, refreshing, thoughtful?
    4. How does each artist use the unpainted surface in his design?
  2. Discussion: Does the painting accurately represent the poem? Discuss Soami’s picture in comparison to the words of the poem. If you were to paint the poem, what might you do differently?

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