Water Buffalo Returning Home

Water Buffalo Returning Home

1781

Yosa Buson

(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

Description

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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