Unlike so many painters of his generation, Goshun began his career with considerable social and economic advantage. Perhaps more significant, his upbringing and temperament aided dramatically in fostering his relationships with teachers, colleagues, and patrons. Apparently he moved with ease from the lively environment of the brothel houses in Kyoto's entertainment district to the sedate sessions of poetry composition favored by the elite of Osaka and Kyoto. Whether writing haiku or executing paintings incorporating classical literary themes--Japanese as well as Chinese--his talent was recognized early and found abundant favor.
Initially Goshun studied painting with Yosa Buson (1716-1783), arguably the most important literati painter of the eighteenth century and one of its leading poets. Buson's masterful brush manner as calligrapher and painter brought a new visual language to the canon of Chinese models and native painting traditions. Goshun, in turn, adapted his master's vocabulary as he found his own style. Whether studying Chinese paintings them-selves or imported painting manuals, or sketching the landscape around him, he gradually defined a more relaxed compositional structure for his work, one that at times almost becomes impressionistic, as in this small byøbu.
The modest dimensions of this single folding screen point to its use in the tea ceremony as a low partition between the preparation area and the participants' space in a small tearoom. Yet the scene focuses on the upper realm of an expansive imaginary Chinese landscape formed solely from a linear web of brushstrokes accen-tuated with groups of dots and small areas of ink washes. The lack of human figures only serves to heighten the viewer's sense of seeing the peaks of a tall mountain from high up in the air nearby rather than from the more customary viewpoint of a traveler walking through a landscape.
Goshun heightens the individuality of this setting and its format by painting on foil, equally silver and gold, which creates an alluring surface and deep space in this surprisingly spare vista. The overall effect is to create a sense of color in a painting in which none exists, apart perhaps from the brief, enigmatic inscription on the right panel giving this byøbu its title. Goshun's acknowledged literary and visual sophistication during this period of his life is encapsulated quietly in this work, which contrasts tellingly with his large figural presentations, such as Scenes from "Essays in Idleness."