In this dramatic close-up of a single landscape element, Ikeda Koson renders a timeless moment in a grove of hinoki cypresses. He depicts an atmosphere of misty space and shifting light by skillfully varying ink tones from black to gray in the leaves of frond-like branchlets. Texture and form result from the application of wet ink over pale washes on the tree trunks.
Koson, a pupil of the Rinpa revivalist Sakai Hōitsu (1761–1828), brought a fresh vitality to standard themes in the Rinpa repertoire through his virtuoso brushwork and ability to convey naturalistic forms without sacrificing the bold decorative impact of his predecessors.
Little is known about Ikeda Koson (1802–1867), who painted this exquisite screen, other than that he was one of the leading students—with his older colleague Kiitsu (cat.no. 135)—of Sakai Hōitsu (cat. no. 134). His signature, "Koson Sanshin utsusu oite Renshinkutsu" (Drawn by Koson Sanshin at the Cavern for Refining the Mind) hints at a leaning toward the spiritual life, and the larger of his two seals, "Chaga zanmai-an shu" (Master of the Hut for Tea, Painting, and Spiritual Concentration), suggests an involvement with chanoyu. Stylistically, Koson's work emulates that of his teacher. Also like Hōitsu, he published a book on Ogata Kōrin (cat. nos. 132, 133), Shinsen Kōrin hyakuzu (A New Selection of One Hundred Paintings by Kōrin).
Koson's oeuvre is composed mainly of brilliantly colored, sharply delineated, semi-realistic works that show traces of Western influence. This exceptionally beautiful screen in ink monochrome veers sharply from the artist's standard style and is widely praised as one of the finest ink paintings by an artist of the Rinpa school.
The cypress was a favorite Rinpa subject. Using only ink, Koson achieves a subtly decorative effect in a spectrum of tones from black to pearl gray. The uniformity of the leaves in both shape and size may indicate that Koson copied them from preexisting patterns, as did Kōrin on occasion. The application of wet over partially dried ink, in the tarashikomi technique, lends a blurred effect, creating an impression of damp woods in early morning, with soft, intermittent rays of sun.
[Miyeko Murase 2000, Bridge of Dreams]
 Ikeda Koson 1864.
Signature: Koson Sanshin Renshin-kutsu no oite utsusu
Marking: Seals: Saga Sammai-an Shu; Sanshin
Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation , New York (until 2015; donated to MMA)
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Murase, Miyeko. Bridge of Dreams: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection of Japanese Art. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000, cat. no. 136.
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