Portrait of Kō Sūkoku

Portrait of Kō Sūkoku

possibly 1817


Watanabe Kazan 渡辺崋山

(Japanese, 1793–1841)


Tani Buncho 谷文晁

(Japanese, 1763–1840)

Fan, wood with ink, color, gold, and silver on paper

Overall: 17.8 x 45.7 cm (7 x 18 in.)

James Parmelee Fund 1976.8



Master of portraiture Watanabe Kazan’s memorial fan painting of the artist Kō Sūkoku (1730–1804) features a variant on one of the deceased’s poems by painter Tani Bunchō on the reverse. The short, unorthodox or comic poem (haikai) reads: The grave is readied / and the sake warmed. / Oh, the cold!

Kazan was a disciple of Tani Bunchō, one of the most prominent painters of his day. The two first met in 1817, the year of the 13th anniversary of Kō Sūkoku’s death. In Japanese Buddhist practice, the 13th death anniversary requires special memorial services, so it has been speculated that the two collaborated on the fan at that time. Many painters and print designers of the Edo period socialized with one another through poetry circles where linked verse poems (renga) and haikai were composed.

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