Water Buffalo Returning Home

Water Buffalo Returning Home


Yosa Buson 与謝 蕪村

(Japanese, 1716–1783)

Hanging scroll, ink and light color on silk

Overall: 203.2 x 59.2 cm (80 x 23 5/16 in.); Painting only: 130.8 x 46.2 cm (51 1/2 x 18 3/16 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1970.77


Did you know?

The man keeps his feet dry by crossing over the bridge while the water buffalo pulls the cart through the stream.


More celebrated in his lifetime as a poet than as a painter, Yosa Buson is a figure central to Japanese nanga. Literally “southern art,” nanga has its roots in Chinese traditions of literati painting, art produced by scholars who painted for their own sake instead of on commission. Buson drew inspiration from multiple styles of Chinese painting, not just those of literati, and ended up more of a professional painter by the time he had become known as an artist. Like other major nanga figures, he operated outside the main government systems of patronage. Japan’s ruler, the shogun, and regional rulers known as daimyō had official painters who enjoyed special social status. Painters like Buson also found patrons among the merchant class, who often enjoyed greater wealth than that of the upper-class daimyō.

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