Paintings / Muromachi

By Shokei (dates unknown)

Muromachi period, 15th century

Ink and light color on paper


A sheer cliff and rocks rising from the water, and mountain silhouettes in the distance. A close inspection reveals figures depicted here and there, including on the opposite shore. This painting is based on works that depicted the landscape of the Xiaoxiang region in the Hunan Province of China. A series of paintings depicting the changing seasons and times of this region in eight different landscapes is called “The Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers.” The work on exhibit features four scenes from those eight classic pieces: a bustling market at the foot of the cliff (Mountain Market, Clearing Mist), fishermen spreading their nets to dry (Sunset Over a Fishing Village), a sailboat returning ashore (Sails Returning from Distant Shores), and a temple tucked away in the mountains (Evening Bell of a Distant Temple).

This painting is by Shōkei, a Zen monk and painter who was active in the Kantō region during the mid-Muromachi period. Shōkei served at Kenchōji Temple in Kamakura, and he studied an orthodox style of ink painting for three years in Kyoto. During the Edo period, his acclaim as a painter rivaled that of Sesshū.

Shōkei’s works are characterized by their refined renderings. Like he did in this painting, he was capable of combining a range of motifs to create an orderly composition. Pay attention to the use of color as well. Ink paintings are primarily drawn with monochrome ink, but color can also be applied. In this work, Shōkei used colors such as blue, green, and brown to accentuate the image.

This is a fine example of Shōkei’s work.

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