Attributed to Bunsei (Muncheong) (Japanese or Korean, active mid-15th century), calligraphy by Chikuan Daien (Japanese, 1362-1439)
hanging scroll, ink on paper, Overall: 63.1 x 28.8 cm (24 13/16 x 11 5/16 in.). Gift from the Collection of George Gund III 2015.515
A special category of early ink painting in Japan embraces the written word as an integral component of the visual image. After all, the movement of a brush laden with ink can describe the structure of a character or ideograph just as well as the shape or contours of a tree, a rock, or the roof of a hut. During the 14th and 15th centuries many literary occasions within the country's Zen monasteries fostered the creation of visual imagery. Conversely, historical records show that poetic inscriptions were often added to paintings out of admiration, respect, or as a kind of monastic duty. This small painting is noteworthy for its single, lengthy inscription, which provides a date for the work, the author's identity, and a title for the painting itself: "Studio of Lofty Rusticity."
Two aged pine trees with spiky, clawlike branches tower above a studio or pavilion, a motif often used in Far Eastern painting to remind the viewer of nature's quiet power and endurance. In the distance, tall mountains rendered in broad ink washes complete the landscape, contrasting with the strong tonal accents occuring elsewhere in the painting. The artist responsible for this painting is likely a Korean painter, perhaps Mun'chºng, whose paintings gained favor abroad for their dramatic compositional structure and soft, wet brushwork.
CMA, 19 March-28 May, 2000: Ink Painting and Ash-Glazed Ceramics: Medieval Calligraphy, Painting, and Ceramic Art from Japan and Korea, no. 25, 76-78 (repr.)
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