Paintings / Azuchi/Momoyama / Edo

By Unkoku Tōgan (1547–1618)

Azuchi-Momoyama period–Edo period, 16th–17th century

Ink and light color on paper



Important Cultural Property

This sliding door painting depicts winter scenes to the right and summer scenes to the left. The painter, Unkoku Togan, attempted to follow in the painting tradition of Sesshu Toyo, a master of ink painting who was active during the Muromachi period about a century earlier. The influence of Sesshu is apparent in the bold brushstrokes of the mountains and rocks, for example, or in the selection of motifs such as craggy mountains, houses, and moored boats. Yet Togan has also added his own unique form of expression to the work. Landscape paintings often emphasize distance by positioning large, foreground motifs to the left and right sides to open up a large space in the center. This bold composition, however, places steep mountains near the middle of the screens. Yet the artist has skillfully managed to create a rolling expanse infused with a sense of depth. He has achieved this in a number of subtle ways. Take the trees that grow fainter as they recede into the distance, for example, or the path that winds off behind the mountains and the small moon that floats in the sky. Though Togan has simplified the shape of the craggy mountains and trees, he has also paid meticulous attention to the details, as evinced by the texture and bulk of the boats, houses and boulders, for instance, or the painstakingly-rendered leaves of the trees. This imbues the work with a weighty sense of solidity. A closer inspection reveals light blue and reddish hues amongst the black ink. We can almost feel the warmth and it seems water and people will begin moving airily through the landscape at any moment.

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