This work uses shades of ink to depict orchids blooming in the lee of a rock. Orchids are commonly featured in Chinese literati painting together with bamboo and plum blossoms.
They are fragrant flowers, and were used as a metaphor for people with excellent natural virtues. The literati were particularly fond of the motif of orchids blooming in obscurity behind mountain rocks.
Gyokuen Bonpo served as chief priest at Kyoto’s Kenninji and Nanzen-ji temples. He admired the literati way of life and was a master orchid painter. The unconstrained, vigorous beauty of the ink lines lends the painting a charm distinct from works by professional painters.