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CLP 120: 1995 “Two Snowy Peaks Viewed from Afar: Some Chinese Thoughts on Sesshu and Sesson.” CLP 120: 1995 “Two Snowy Peaks Viewed from Afar: Some Chinese Thoughts on Sesshu and Sesson.”

LACMA lecture, Dec. 3,1995:

"Two Snowy Peaks Viewed from Afar: Some Chinese Thoughts on Sesshu and Sesson." (Note: some text has been lost on pp.,3-4)

Intro. This lecture began as a compilation of misc. thoughts, jotted on pieces of paper over the years and put into manila folders labeled "Sesshu" and "Sesson," not intended as organized study of these two masters. But as I worked on it, over past months, gradually took on a certain form, direction. And not one I intended.

(S,S. Works by the two.) Sesshû Tôyô (1420-1506) has been regarded, almost from his own time, as a towering figure in Japanese painting, even as their greatest single artist, while Sesson Shûkei (1504-1589?) has been seen as an interesting and important but decidedly lesser one. A recent large-scale History of Japanese Art by the late Penelope Mason, for instance, doesn't mention Sesson at all. Without attempting to overturn these judgements altogether, I intended in this lecture to raise once more questions of the relationship between these two masters, and their respective relationships to Chinese painting, and perhaps suggest a somewhat different balance in evaluating them.

The fact that both have the character Setsu, meaning snow, in their artist's names is not coincidental; Sesson adopted it to indicate a claim that he was in the legitimate lineage of Sesshu's followers. Of course he could not study directly with Sesshu; only two years old when the older master died. Early sources accept his claim that he was disciple of Sesshu; but at most, acquainted w. Sesshu's direct pupils and with his paintings. He actually drew on a diversity of sources, Chinese and Japanese, w. Sesshu only one among them.I'll treat these two masters separately first, with special attn. to their knowledge and uses of Chinese painting, and add a few remarks on what I understand their art-historical positions to be w/in history of Jap. ptg.

S,S. (Summer, from LS of 4 Seasons; Li Tsai.) Crucial event in Sesshu's life, for our purpose, was his two-year stay in China, from 1467. Spent time in Ningpo, Hangchou, Yangchou, Peking. His contacts w. artists in China seem to have been chiefly w. so-called academy & Che-school masters, those treated in Dick Barnhart's Ptrs of Great Ming exhib. In an inscription on a "splashed-ink" landscape (which we'll see later), written when he was 76, nearly 30 years after his return from China, Sesshu claims that he found only two ptrs there whom he could learn from: Li Tsai & still-unident. Chang Yu-sheng. Says he learned colored ptg tech. from Chang, use of ink from Li Tsai. Li Tsai on left: (comparison) Sesshu's ptg is summer LS from set of four he ptd either while still in China or shortly after return.

S,S. Another Che-school artist whose works he must have seen--very prominent in this period, credited as founder of school--Tai Chin, who had died in 1462, five years before Sesshu's arrival. Winter LS from Sesshu's series on right, one from Tai Chin's series on left. Resemblances obvious: strongly outlined, angular shapes overlap to establish a kind of limited depth; figures & bldgs prominent. Now, the Che-school ptg of Ming dynasty, in turn, derives from styles of Southern Sung, i.e. 12th-13th cent., artists, especially those active in imperial academy. And Sesshu, besides imitating the Ming paintings, makes direct copies of works by ptrs of So. Sung. So we have 3-way relationship: can be seen as linear, Sung to Ming Che-school to Sesshu, or triangular, in which Sesshu is also studying Sung painting directly. Japanese scholars stress latter, construct the relationship so that Sesshu, dissatisfied with ptgs by his contemporaries in China, uses his stay there to study Sung-period works, learn directly from them. I have been inclined in past to argue agst this view. So best to take a moment to try to define dif. between Sung & Ming ptg in this mode, see which fits better w. Sesshu's style. Will do this rather quickly, so as not to use up too much of our time.

-- S. Behind Tai Chin's winter LS, at some distance, lies style of this famous work by 13th cent. academy master Liang K'ai: identified by pair of mounted figures, people making their way upward past snowy trees. Figures here relatively inconspicuous; only bldg in ptg (gate in pass) scarcely visible above; much ambiguity, forms w/o clear boundaries, space flows freely thru comp, atmospheric depths.

S --. Album leaf in Freer: later 13th or14th cent? or so, based on Liang K'ai's (or some other version of it). Same pair of fig., but more conspicuous; gate in pass still there, although oddly locate (desc.) Narrative elements enlarged, exposed. Whole scene somewhat flattened. From this to Tai Chin's picture an easy move.

-- S. Detail of Tai's. One of riders points forward--common feature of Che-school ptgs. Conventional motif, w/o specific meaning; intended to make picture more dramatic, dynamic. Doesn't, in end.

S,S. Difference can be illustrated also w. two versions of Ma Yuan comp., "Banquet by Lantern Light." (describe.) Constraint, concision of Sung composition contrasts w. dispersed char. of Ming one.

-- S. Another of Sesshu's set of four. It would appear from these examples that Sesshu is more Ming artist than Sung. One might argue: If Ming Chinese artists couldn't really re-create Sung academy mode, no reason to suppose that Japanese artist could. Claim that Sesshu was able t**of Japan, for instance, write about Sesshu's masterwork, the "long scroll" of landscape in the Môri family collection in Yamaguchi, that "It is the synthesis of the artist's life-long experience of penetrating into the secrets of natural beauty," and, "To view this scroll is like taking a magical drive through the beautiful countryside and marvelling as the scenery changes in accord with the seasons." (That would indeed be magical, something to marvel at, a drive that took one through all four seasons.) I would see it, rather, as a skillfully assembled and elegantly presented series of conventional bits of scenery learned from Chinese paintings he had seen. The old scholar with his boy servant, the village gathering, the hollowed rocks, all can be seen as deriving from a Southern Sung academy .repertory of motifs, as transformed by the Ming Che-school and academy masters.

S,S. For instance, the scene of the great cliff from Hsia Kuei's 13c. "Pure and Remote View of Streams and Mts.", along with other parts of the scroll, were copied over & over by Ming artists, in whose hands the forms become harder, flatter, with heavier outlining.

S --. Another. The masses of rock, spatially and geologically coherent in Hsia Kuei's ptg, break into discrete, geologically implausible units. A detail almost unnoticeable in Hsia Kuei's scroll, a cave with two figures seated inside facing each other, is enlarged and made more prominent. A boy on a water buffalo adds an anecdotal touch; the enlargement of the figures diminishes the scale of the cliff.

S --.Now when we turn to the corresponding section of Sesshu's scroll, we can easily recognize it to be derived from the Ming versions rather than directly from the Hsia Kuei original, which Sesshu probably never saw. The hollows at the base of the cliff, where it is eroded by the river, are enlarged; so are the trees, and the texture strokes on the rocks. The grandeur of Hsia Kuei's vision, his deep engagement with natural forms & phenomena, are lost in the process.

S,S. The passage noted before in Hsia Kuei's scroll, two men seated in a cave partway up the face of the cliff, is one of many details that the artist tucks away for the patient viewer to find.

-- S. Ming paintings, and Sesshu's, appear to be intended for less patient viewers--it's like the difference, perhaps, between the best old movies and typical TV programs today: hit them with it hard, don't make them reach to get it. Sesshu's landscapes, instead of being drawn from his lifelong experiences of nature, or even from his observations of the real scenery in China, are in large part put together from readymade imagery of this kind. These paired figures, for example, recur often in his works, as we'll see.

S,S. Another matter in Sesshu's uses of Chinese painting styles that needs to be clarified is his engagement with the landscape manner of Kao K'o-kung. Kao was an early Yuan period (i.e. late 13c) scholar-official, a friend of Chao Meng-fu , who painted landscapes with conical hills rising above fog, and pines and leafy trees, sometimes simple houses and bridges. At right is one of his genuine works, at left another ascribed to him that may be an early imitation.

-- S. Although Kao K'o-kung himself was a scholar-official amateur, his style was continued in the Ming not so much by the literati painters who were Kao K'o-kung's proper successors as by the professionals, especially those active in court circles--this odd example is by Tai Chin. The reason is that for Ming artists, it was less Kao K'o-kung's own amateur status that was associated with the pictures than the special meaning they carried in the world of politics and scholar-officialdom: paintings of hills in clouds or rain were presented to officials to praise them, using an old metaphor to deliver the message: the benefits that you bring to the people through your benevolent administration are like the blessings of good harvests that clouds and rain bring to the farmers.

S,S. Horizontal versions of this subject in handscroll form were probably produced by the thousands--quite a few survive, including the anonymous one at right, Yuan or early Ming in date, and the one at left, also anonymous, one of a series of paintings, including several others of this subject, excavated from the late 15th century tomb at Huai-ai in Chekiang province. When the artists of such pictures can be identified, they prove mostly to have been those active in court and official circles.

S --. Li Tsai, for instance, did this version of the type, another of the ptgs excavated from the Huai-an tomb. Li Tsai, you remember, is the Ming academy master from whom Sesshu acknowledged learning about the use of ink. (Some smart young Japanese scholar should do paper on "Sesshû and the Huai-an Tomb Paintings." Perhaps one of them already has.)

-- S. It's no surprise, then, that this style or type of landscape is among the ones Sesshu learned in China, since those were the circles in which he principally moved, along with Buddhist temples. A priest friend named Hôbu Ryôshin who visited him in his studio in 1476, seven years after his return from China, and left a long record of the visit, writes that Sesshu did landscapes of three types: those with trees and rocks in the manner of Ma Yüan and Hsia Kuei, wet-ink ptgs in the manner of Yü-chien (to which we will turn later), and cloudy hills pictures of the type associated with Kao K'o-kung.[i] Sesshu's paintings bear out this comment, since they include a number of this type. Here, for instance, is a copy of a section by him now missing from a handscroll painting in the Kyoto Nat'l Museum, recognized as being in the Kao K'o-kung style.

S,S. Others, known only from old reproduction books and auction catalogs, include these two, a hanging scroll and a pair of screens, which offer highly schematic versions of the style. The reason I say that this matter needs clarification is that Japanese scholars have used Sesshu's engagement with the Kao K'o-kung style as evidence that his artistically fruitful contacts in China were not limited to artists of the academy and the Che school, but included also the so-called Southern School of the scholar-amateurs, to which Kao K'o-kung himself certainly belonged.[ii] The problem with this argument is that it is based, as I've suggested, on a misreading of the affiliations and implications of this style in the Ming period. The practice of making landscapes of this type was in fact firmly established in the professional painting circles of Ningpo and Hangchou and Peking where Sesshu learned, and does not in itself indicate any notable excursions beyond the stylistic terrain of those circles.

-- S. This is the point at which my treatment of Sesshu might have, until recently, more or less stopped. As a brash graduate student invited to speak at a symposium on Ming-Ch'ing painting in Tokyo in 1955 (? check), I presented a view of Sesshu as a kind of provincial Che-school master that was well remembered by my Japanese colleagues, and that contributed to the role I took on as an iconoclast willing to say what others would not say about sacrosanct matters in Japanese art. And I've more or less repeated that version of Sesshu on other occasions; my colleague Don McCallum probably came here expecting me to do it again. (He feels the same way, I think) But lately, after spending more time with Sesshu, I'm strongly inclined to go beyond that early semi-dismissal of him, raise somewhat my estimation of him, and attempt again to get at the question of where, if he is so widely hailed as a great master, his greatness lies. After trying to deconstruct some of traditional Japanese claims for Sesshu, that is, I want to try to rebuild his stature on different basis. I reach this point after finding and studying, among his reproduced paintings, a number that are not hardened and conventionalized, Ming-like versions of the Sung-Yuan styles, but unexpectedly sensitive imitations or evocations that indicate a deep and first-hand engagement with Sung-Yuan ptg, as well as the technical ability to re-create with surprising fidelity its essential qualities. This horizontal landscape, for instance, known to me only in a reproduction book published in 1910 (and perhaps no longer extant), is not simply a schematized performance in the Kao K'o-kung manner, but a painting with atmospheric depths and nuances of light and shadow.[iii]

S,S.
A set of "Landscapes of Four Seasons" in album-leaf form,[iv] similarly known to me only in reproduction, might be copies of leaves by Ma Yüan, and at least are closely in his style; although the brushwork is broader and the forms more prominent than they would have been in the Sung originals, in keeping with the Sung-to-Ming transformation outlined at the beginning of this lecture,

S --. the relationship with some hypothetical model, represented here by a signed Ma Yüan fan ptg in the Boston MFA, is not simply a matter of hardening and conventionalization. Sesshu's claim, stated or implied in his inscriptions, to have bypassed his Ming contemporaries and gone back to the Sung originals is not entirely without substance.

S,S. Most surprising of all, for someone who thought he knew Sesshu, is an album of 22 leaves of which ten were reproduced in Tajima Shiichi's 1910 Masterpieces of Sesshu.[v] Tajima wrote of them: "There are many pictures done by Sesshu still existing; among which the long scroll belonging to Prince Môri comes first, and next to it the present album. When we look at the pictures in this album we readily understand that Sesshu was far superior even to the great artists of the Sung China, such as Ma Yuan, Hsia Kuei, etc. . . . no other work by Sesshu can be compared with them." Even after discounting as nationalism and hyperbole Tajima's claim that Sesshu here surpasses the Sung masters who created these styles, we are still left with a very impressive set of paintings, which handle the Southern Sung academy manner with more finesse and fidelity than Ming-period artists are ordinarily capable of. In our century, the Japanese, because of their collecting and love of that category of painting, have on the whole had a better "feel" for it than Chinese scholars, who have been putting it down for centuries as low-class, or Western scholars who shared that biased taste. Was something of the same kind true already in the 15th century? Did the Japanese have some special affinity for the So. Sung academy mode that the Chinese had lost? That's a possibility worth considering.

[i]Text in Matsushita, Sesshu (Nihon no Bijutsu series no. 100) p. 45; for Ryôshin's visit, p. 2 of sec'n on Sesshu in Water and Ink.

[ii]See for instance Tanaka Ichimatsu, Jap. Ink Ptg.: Shubun to Sesshu, New York and Tokyo, Weatherhill, 1972, p. 123. (Quote if longer version.)

[iii]Formerly Viscount Matsudaira Yôdai collection, Tokyo; reproduced in Tajima Shiichi, Sesshû Gashû (Masterpieces of Sesshû), Toky o, Shimbi Shoin, 1910, pl. 3 1. 2' 6-3/4" x 4' 7-3/4".

[iv]See Nakamura Tanio, Kanazawa Hiroshi, et. al., ed., Sesshû gagyô shûsei, pl. 60-63. 41 x 25 cm. each, on paper. Collection?

[v]Tajima, op. cit., pl. 13-24. Ink and light colors on silk, 1'4" x 1'2" each.Then collection of Marquis Hosokawa Morishige, Tokyo; present whereabouts unknown.

Another question: why has this album, once considered the artist's second most important work and published in good plates in a well-known old book, disappeared from modern scholarship? Even the huge volume edited by Nakamura and Kanazawa, which includes in a supplement some works known only in old reproductions, ignores it. Is it rejected as not authentic? But the signature doesn't look bad, and other works with signature only, no seals, especially those that are copies of older paintings, are accepted by specialists today.

Last question: why am I making so much of this group of paintings? Because they testify to Sesshu's ability to work outside the normal stylistic boundaries of his Ming Che-school and academy contemporaries and get back more closely to the Sung originals. And if he possesses this ability, then it follows that the high degree of conventionalization and formalization and flattening that characterizes his late style, as seen in the works always reproduced to represent him, was arrived at through a deliberate process, and isn't simply an end-point in a Ming-like hardening of style. And admitting that obliges us to try to define what lay behind this conscious choice.

S,S. In discussing this matter in the past, I have emphasized what was sacrificed in this process, the direct development in Japan out of Sung landscape painting to which Sesshu appears to have put an end, the development that culminates in landscapes associated with his predecessor Shûbun, such as this superb work in the Seattle Art Museum. Why would an artistic tradition, a group or series of painters, deliberately give up this delicacy and depth, if they were collectively and individually capable of it? That is still a question that confronts us.

S,.S. In addressing these questions I will conclude with two more groups of Sesshu paintings, beginning with the splashed-ink landscapes in the manner of the late Sung (13th cent.) monk-artist Yü-chien. On the right, a detail of "Mt. Village in Clearing Mist" from Yü-chien's "Eight Views of the Hsiao-Hsiang Region" series; at left, a fan ptg attrib. to him, long preserved in Japan. Now, the success of these ptgs as evocations of spacious, atmospheric landscapes, with the parts readable as hilltops and groves of trees and so forth, depends on the brushstrokes not being distinct, well-shaped, neat; on the contrary, they are ragged, amorphous, run together, and because of that powerfully suggestive. Won't take time to analyze how this works; will only point out that "Mt. Village" scene at least as clearly readable as same scene in academic style would be: ink values separate near and far, dry strokes suggest rough surfaces of earth and rock with play of light and shadow, wet strokes are read as atmospheric blurring, etc. Small miracle of making seemingly casual strokes work effectively as elements in coherent representation of scene. Fan ptg accomplishes the same on simpler scale. Note for instance volumetric drawing of hilltop. Fisherman in boat.

-- S. If identification of ptgs w. seal Sessô as early works of Sesshu can be trusted (as is widely believed), then we can see in this ptg in Masaki Mus. an early attempt by Sesshu to adopt this manner. And fairly successfully: light & shadow on FG rocks, separation of distance, etc. Detail clearly readable, as in Chinese Ch'an or Zen ptg: two facing figures on shore, man in boat, rooftops of houses, trees of dif. kinds (bare, pine), temple.

-- S. But when, at a later point in his life, Sesshu paints the well-known copy after Yü-chien in his series of copies of fan ptgs, he does something quite different: emphasizes formal elegance of brushstrokes, which become distinct, not merged; variations in ink value less directed twd. separation of forms in space, or rendering their volume, than twd pure visual beauty. Since no ptg of this kind by Ming masters seems to survive, we have no way of knowing what Sesshu's contemporaries, probably working in Buddhist temples, were doing; this is part of big problem of continuation of Ch'an-Buddhist-related styles of Sung-Yüan period into later centuries. (I have article on this in progress.) But we can guess that whatever they looked like, Sesshu is going in dif. direction. No comparable development of ink-monochrome ptg can be found in Ming that would serve to account for this.

S, S. And this is direction in which Sesshu will continue in his production of "splashed-ink" landscape, which became one of his favorite types. (One in Idemitsu, one in Cleveland Mus.) Note extreme simplification, conventionalization, in Idemitsu picture, of motif of two people facing each other in boat. Has conflated fisherman-in-boat motif from Ch. work with two-people-facing motif from Ma Yuan and Hsia Kuei--doesn't make a lot of sense representationally--who rows the boat? but who cares? not kind of thing Sesshu is concerned with by now. In Cleveland ptg, brushstrokes even more independent of rep. or even suggestion of specific things, they are locked stably together into highly formalized configuration; light & dark don't work to define planes of distance.

S,S. And that brings us to his masterwork in this genre, haboku LS of 1495 in Tokyo NM, ptd for his pupil Sôen when he was departing for Kamakura. What began as a highly evocative image of an evanescent passage of scenery has been transformed into a tightly organized, stable structure of broad, non-descriptive brushstrokes. The identifying elements of scene, insofar as they are still readable at all, have been turned into conventional signs. And even more than before, the shapes of the brushstrokes, and their ink values, take on a certain independence of descriptive or representational purpose; they work as pure form, visually very satisfying.

S.S. Details. Something like this might be seen as happening in Ming imitations of Sung in China; but not so radically, and in different way. What we see here is somehow very Japanese, and, I would argue, it marks the real beginning of a great development of Japanese ink ptg as largely independent of Chinese. I made this argument here some years ago, on occasion of a big exhib. of Jap. ink ptg.; didn't credit Sesshu for his role as a major initiator of it, as I would now be inclined to do. One could follow through by showing Tôhaku's pine trees, ink ptgs by Sotatsu and Korin, by Taiga and Gyokudo, all the way down to Tessai and Murakami Kagaku (as I did at a symposium several weeks ago), always making basically the same observations about the relative divorcement of brushstrokes and ink values from representational purpose.

S,S. To conclude with Sesshu, we look briefly at what he does with the Hsia Kuei model. Two copies of fan paintings by Hsia Kuei, which already have flattened the forms and emphasized their contours. An old man with his servant climbs toward a temple in one; in the other, a wintry traveler approaches a pass. Hsia Kuei might well have painted the originals of these.

S,S. But never of these--the famous pair from landscapes of the four seasons, always included among Sesshu's masterworks. If one were still looking at them as pictures, one would ask: what are those two absurdly large people (judging from the scale of the house in foreground, and their location in middleground) doing in front of the temple? or, what is that Mt. Fuji-like shape behind the temple in the other picture? A huge pile of snow? Wrong questions. What we have here are two more examples of Sesshu's radical transformation of the Chinese landscape type.

The transformation is very knowing and deliberate. And if I were to sum up the direction of it in a phrase, it would be: the Japanization of once-potent Chinese landscape imagery. What do I mean by Japanization. We used to use the term "decorative," but the word has too much of a pejorative sense, which I certainly don't intend. To say about an artist what I'm going to say about Sesshu would once have been to dismiss him, back in an age when humanistic ways of thought about art and culture were still more prevalent; now that they are now perhaps we can say it without devaluing him. What Sesshu does is subject the imagery of Chinese landscape ptg to a radical formalization, a reduction of once-potent pictorial themes and motifs to more or less abstract conventions. This process drains the imagery of most of its original meaning, so that the scene can be read as pure form, very cool, disengaged, elegant. In later times, the Rimpa masters, Sotatsu & Korin & others, would do the same for the old narrative imagery of Yamato-e; Nanga artists would do it again for certain imagery from Ming-Ch'ing ptg & printed pictures. What survive of the intellectual and emotional content of the original pictures are only faint echoes, or resonances, which evoke a kind of nostalgia, along with the pleasure of visual recognition without emotional engagement. This is a quintessentially Japanese process--I remember reading a modern fashion commentator amazed at how the Jap. dress designers could present in their showrooms models in costumes of Hitler maidens, or the American drug culture, all drained of the original implications, presented as pure style. But this is no longer a specifically Japanese phenomenon, if it ever was; I stand here in what must be the world center for it: the cool, disengaged manipulation of imagery, divor***************************

SESSON FROM HERE

. . . leaves him without much time remaining, for one thing--this lecture became quite skewed as I worked on it, until it scarcely resembles the description in the announcement (which, because of printing deadlines, one always has to send in long before one knows what one's going to say.) Still, I will try to make a few points abt Sesson in the remaining time.

This is his self-portrait, done when he was around 70, acc. to Barbara Ford, who published an excellent article on it in 1982. I attended a one-day symposium at Yamato Bunkakan in 1981, when a major exhib. of his works was there, that concentrated on two of his productions: this self-portrait, and the short essay attrib. to him, Setsu montei-shi or "Advice to [My] Disciples." Thought I would have new things to say abt this self-portrait, but rereading Ford's article, find that I have nothing signif. to add. Ptg & insc. (by artist) full of intricacies; manages to embed ref. to his own name (Snow Village) in first two lines of quatrain, and ref. to old Ch. lit. anecdote in last two:

"Mountain and river merge in a single color, whiter than floss,
Chimney smoke hovers over a winding row of roofs.
Gone is the impulse that brought me; my boat is poled homeward,
Moonbright water flows before a brushwood gate." (Ford trans.)
(4th cent. story told in 5c text: Wang Hui-chih visits Tai An-tao) Sesson is making claim for spontaneity, purposeless action, freedom from constraints, that this anecdote represented.

[ Cut if time too short:] The essay, Setsu montei-shi, is dated early in his life, 1542 (when he was 39, acc. to generally-accepted birthdate, 1504); based on ms. rec'd from one of his followers, not pub. until 1811. Considerable question abt its authenticity; some Jap. scholars argue that since it first appears in context of rediscovery of Sesson by early 19c artists & aesthetes in Edo, incl. Tani Bunchô and Sakai Hôitsu, might be fabrication of theirs. I can't have any useful view on the matter--needs far more work, and better knowledge of early Jap. writings on ptg--except to say that it makes sense as writing by Sesson: a bit awkward & provincial, like his ptg; spirited, original; and revealing some knowledge, but decidedly not full knowledge, of Chinese writings on ptg. Haven't time to discuss it thoroughly; will just summarize, quote a few passages.

Ptg, he says, differs from callig. in its capacity to capture the myriad images of the world. Goes on: "If one receives these w. his brush and notes them in his mind, and so completes the ptg, then as one travels on the roads among mts & seas, fixing his mind [on them] and applying his brush, from a single dot the myriad dots (or brushstrokes) will be transformed, like a dragon ascending the clouds, or a tiger treading the wind, the spirit [of the things depicted] will be spontaneously exposed [set forth.]"

Goes on w. technical advice: on speed of brush-mvt, on shadow & sunlight, on a flow of energy from ptr's arm to tip of brush, and on avoiding use of belly of brush. Advises that one should begin w. dense ink and go on to pale ink, and that ptg should be 7 parts dense to 3 parts pale. (Very odd advice, directly contrary to Chinese admonitions. A Kano-school writer advises the same: have we here some clue to a reason for how Jap. ink ptg differs from Chinese?)

He writes of studying old masters, but cautions agst imitating them closely, to the point where the ptg isn't one's own. Ptg must imitate the myriad forms of nature, even though one can adopt from older artists their "abbreviations," by which I think he means their simplifications of form, or conventional forms. He concludes: "But brush-strength is a matter of fixing one's own mind and ideas and then wielding the brush. When it isn't that way, it can't be called one's own ptg. Even though I have studied Sesshu for many years, when I see how far distant my style is from his, [I realize that] somehow, ptg has to be a discipline attained through direction experience [lit. "bones & eyes"] of the landscapes and figures in one's own life."

Without, as I say, being able to have a useful opinion on its authenticity, I would like to believe it's Sesson's own writing, and see nothing inconsistent with his position in Jap. ptg, or his relationship to Chinese traditions. Since it is so early, before he became acquainted w. many great ptgs, Jap. or Ch., it is best read as a statement of intention: what he believes abt ptg, what he aspires to do. Already he writes of being a Sesshu follower; and, although Barbara Ford has argued rightly that there isn't all that much inf. from Sesshu in his works (he could have seen Sesshu ptgs brought to Kamakura by Sesshu's principal pupil Sôen), he must be responding, in some of his works at least, to Sesshu's innovations. There were advantages in making this claim, in eyes of his patrons & clients; advantages in responding to new dev. in style, as I believe he does. To here.

S --. (Burke LS) This ptg, in Burke col., prob. from this early period of 1540s[vi] when Sesson was living in Satake castle town of Ota; Ford provides circumstances under which he could have seen early Ch. ptgs there[vii]. Like Sesshu, he is clearly able to evoke with considerable skill the spaciousness and refined descriptive drawing of Sung ptg. But already also a kind of quirkiness that doesn't appear in Sesshu's works, seen in way hunched forward lean of figure in waterside pavilion at right echoed in ferry boatman at left.

-- S. He also learned from Ming ptg, which was being imported in his time, so that one didn't have to go to China to see it as Sesshu did. By the 1550s Sesson was living in Odawara, where there was considerable trade w. Chinese merchant vessels;[viii] this may have exposed him to more recent dev. in ptg on the mainland. This one based on Sung? design of palace ladies by way of Ming copy, now copied by Sesson? something like that. Awkwardnesses of Ming copy carry over into his.

[vi]Ford dis. p. 22, citing Murase

[vii]Ford article p. 8

[viii]Ford article p. 9

S,S. (Old Sages Gathering Mushrooms; Lü Tung-pin.) I can't say that I share the great enthusiasm that some scholars have for Sesson's figure ptg; famous depiction of Taoist immortal Lü Tung-pin strikes me as not so much witty as clumsy, even inept--as if he had attempted to portray body bent or twisted in religious fervor, messed it up, has odd hump (of buttocks?) projecting to the left which doesn't agree w. splayed feet, etc. Left, one of his many ptgs of Chinese sages, here seen gathering mushrooms. One might see Sesson as artist who, like Pa-ta Shan-jen in China, exploited oddnesses in his style, which were partly the outcome of his use of somewhat debased sources, for effects of eccentricity; and this is true enough of some of his work. But the product of that choice has to seem more deliberate, effective, than this. So, I will leave out his fig. ptgs.

S,S. In Odawara & Kamakura Sesson becomes involved in tea ceremony, produces ptgs of this kind, in manner of Mu-ch'i, which could serve as tea ceremony hangings: haha-chô; radish. Both insc. by abbot of Engakuji, Zen temple in Kamakura.

S,S. Out of these accomplished but unsurprising works Sesson develops the style seen in such ptgs as these: one of crabs & eggplants, another (Gitter col.) of grapes and bamboo. Both are unusual compound subjects, joining things seldom put together. But more importantly, both exhibit the new manner of ink monochrome ptg that I would like to credit to Sesshu. In grapes & bamboo, espec., arbitrary but visually engaging shifts of ink values having nothing to do w. either light & shadow or planes of depth, and an interesting dispersal of forms over the surface. Will see the same in Sesson's splashed-ink LS.

S,S. Details from Winter LS, one of famous pair in Kyoto NM. I show details instead of the whole (which we saw at beginning of lecture) to bring out how expertly Sesson is able to use ink gradations to give depth to groves of trees and volume to earth masses, and to create hollows of space filled w. wintry mists. Figures of fishermen and travelers look alive, interesting, not just conventional signs. He has mastered refined representational techniques of Chinese painting and uses them in original way. Some contact w. Ming ptg probable: other of pair reminiscent of his contemp. Lu Chih. And as in case of Sesshu, works such as this demonstrate that when, by contrast, Sesson does ptgs that offer no such atmospheric space or sensitive descriptive drawing, it is by intent; he is perfectly capable of these.

S,S. The Kyoto NM pair, and the two small ptgs seen here, are my personal favorites among Sesson's works. "Boat in Windstorm," on right, is probably most often reprod. of his ptgs; Jap. scholar Etoh Shun has shown that it is partly derived from a Chinese ptg by a follower of Li T'ang named Lu Ch'ing, which survives only in a copy by Kano Tanyû. But Sesson uses only part of Chinese comp., and in way that doesn't significantly reduce originality of his work. Everyone who sees this little picture is immediately taken with the perfect balance, along with the dynamicism, of the composition. Here I would see some influence of Sesshu's style in the thick, blunt line drawing, which adds to the strength of the design. But the sense of movement and the momentary, the fresh, unhackneyed conception, makes it unlike anything of Sesshu's.

Other ptg, now in Sanso col., a particular favorite of mine, knew it long before Mr. Sanso acquired it. Haunting, mysterious work--nowhere in either Chinese or Japanese painting can we find, to my knowledge, any really comparable composition:

--S. Full moon, strange rocks w. water swirling around them, windblown trees,

-- S. Fisherman in boat among reeds in inlet. Fluidity of forms, way eye is carried smoothly over surfaces and from one element of the picture to the next, set it off from anything Sesshu might do. Way the bend of the fisherman's body is strangely answered in rock (as two fig. answered each other in Burke ptg--this may be Sesson's response to Sesshu motif of facing figures) as well as contrasting thrusts of large and small rocks, all make this, for me, an even more absorbing composition than the better-known "Boat in Windstorm."

These ptgs raise familiar question: if an artist is capable of such achievements, why doesn't he do more of them? Question one often asks of artists, without getting an answer, and not only because they are dead--even living ones seem unable to answer it convincingly. There are a few other Sesson ptgs comparable in their strength and compactness and depth of feeling, notably an album of 8 Views of Hsiao & Hsiang.

S --. But more common among his later works are compositions of a somewhat phantasmagorical nature, such as this section of a screen in the Seattle Art Museum. Some of the pictorial components are the same, but put together in wildly imaginative way, in which parts don't work together smoothly and logically, by artist's intent. Landscape forms swoop and curl,

-- S. Water gushes down oddly, spaces don't connect believably. All this generates a certain excitement, but as in case of wild & eccentric works of Shôhaku, it's an excitement that quickly wears thin--like someone telling a fantastic story that doesn't grip you because you can't believe it.

So, again: why would an artist of Sesson's abilities go in this direction? In the context of his earlier achievements, seems more than a little perverse. Perhaps can best be understood if we think of situation of creative artist confronted w. strongly established classical models in the recent past of his art: in Sesson's case, late style of Sesshu, still being carried on more or less intact by his followers; also, estab. around same time and espec. strong in Kantô region, model of Kenkô Shôkei, or Kei Shoki, which was also being carried on by his followers. How to avoid simply being one of these followers?

A case that comes to my mind when I encounter a situation of this kind is that of the sons of Bach, espec. Wilhelm Friedeman and Karl Philipp Emanuel, both serious and gifted composers confronted w. the massive, conservative, unmatchable model of father J.S. Both seem in some of their compositions to be consciously and determinedly breaking the model, disrupting the classical stability of J.S.'s music, writing music that is highly experimental, often odd, sometimes quirky, too "far out" to set a direction for later composers; not followed up, really. Is something like this behind oddities and aberrant directions of Sesson, espec. in late period?

But parallel not exact; Sesson had solid, stable style of his own that he could have gone on using. Some reason in patronage, perhaps, or psychological bent of artist? Leave for proper specialists.

-- S. I turn finally to Sesson's haboku (properly hatsuboku) sanzui or "splashed ink" landscapes. This is one of pair in YB, in which his bizarre LS style seems to have been carried over into this type.

S --. Other. Hollowed rock, lunging peak, undercut forms, seem less fantastic here, but still a sharp break from Sesshu's haboku LS or imitations of it by followers. Again, as if violating the model.

S,S. Most of Sesson's haboku ptgs are smaller, simpler; these two are good examples. On one hand, draws on familiar reportory of conventional signs that Sesshu and his followers have established as stock items in ptgs of this kind; on other hand, varies compositions, plays against conventions, avoids foursquare character of the Sesshu model with unstable forms and spatial ambiguities.. Also, as in his other small ptgs shown earlier, makes very knowing and effective use of what I want to call the new manner of ink monochrome, with brushstrokes and ink values somewhat divorced from representation. No Chinese artist would paint this way: would violate too many of their implicit rules.

S --. Last slide of day. Sometimes Sesson arranges the familiar elements in dif. combinations, or organizes little quasi-narrative details, such as two fig. who greet each other (or say farewell?) outside gate in lower r., while one traveler approaches on muleback, another? or second servant? behind. Such provocative hints save pictures from routine character that some works by Sesshu's direct and less creative followers fall into. All in all, Sesson benefits greatly from Sesshu's innovations, without, I think, being constrained by them; comes through as highly independent master, versatile, more willing to take risks (and fail sometimes) than Sesshu. A disrupter of classical models and classical stability, including Sesshu's--a healthy artistic development needs both types of artist. Sesson didn't make so great an impact on Japanese ptg as Sesshu, perhaps produced fewer really powerful and authoritative works, so isn't seen as ptr of Sesshu's stature. And that (to the great disappointment of certain anti-Sesshu people in the audience who came expecting to hear me trash him) is a judgement that in the end I think I'm in agreement with. That Sesshu has been praised as a great artist for what now seem to me the wrong reasons shouldn't be held agst him; we can see him differently, as I have tried to do, and still recognize him as a great artist. And that is the final point of this lecture.

Thank you.

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