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Mountain landscape

Mountain landscape

Mountain landscape, one of a pair 1812 (ninth year of Bunka), by Noro Kaiseki. Japan; Edo period (16151868). Six panel folding screen; Ink and colors on gold. Gift and Purchase from the Harry G.C. Packard Collection Charitable Trust in honor of Dr. Shujiro Shimada; The Avery Brundage Collection, 1991.66.2.


Who was the artist?
Noro Kaiseki was born into a merchant family in Wakayama prefecture, a coastal region south of Osaka. At age 20, living in Kyoto, he began to study with the famous and influential Nanga painter Ike Taiga (1723–1767), the husband of Ike Gyokuran (Aoki Shukuya, also studied with Taiga). Moving back to his hometown, Kaiseki was appointed to a low-ranking office in charge of the domain’s copper mines. His job took him on long walks through the countryside, where he was able to observe nature first hand—a factor that influenced his landscape paintings.

He was an avid scholar, particularly interested in Chinese painting theories. The foundation of the Nanga painting tradition was based on the theories of a Chinese scholar artist, Dong Qichang, who stated that the Southern school was made up of scholar-amateur artists and the Northern school consisted of professional academy painters. Scholar painters were encouraged to practice the amateur style, to shun painting as a professional activity. Kaiseki was among the first Japanese to fully understand the distinctions Dong made between the Northern and Southern schools of painting in China. His studies of painting theories led him to publish his own book on the subject in 1827. In this painting, Kaiseki pursued a literal interpretation of the southern style of Chinese scholar-painting. In contrast to Chinese Southern painting, which was exclusively practiced by the scholarbureaucrat class, Nanga painting in Japan was not confined to one class of artist. Scholarly samurai first imported Southern painting and their ideals, but a large number of Nanga painters came from the merchant class. Kaiseki is one such example.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Compositional Techniques. This painting depicts a wide river backed by a panorama of mountains that recede into a hazy distance.
  • What techniques has the artist used to give a sense of the towering mountains, misty atmosphere, and distance?
  • How has the artist depicted water? (blank paper) How does he make the mountains that are furthest away appear to be far away? (they are depicted using a wash of diluted ink).
  • How do things that are close look? (They are clearly drawn with detailed lines).

Entry by U-gene Kim.

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