Two-panel screen, originally sliding-door panels; ink on paper
65 1/2 x 70 1/2 in. (166.4 x 179 cm)
Purchase, The Charles Engelhard Foundation Gift, 1987
Not on view
Shifting time and distance are the subject of the well-known poem by the Tang poet Li Bo (701–762) that inspired and grace this landscape by Ike no Taiga:
Early morning, we leave Baidi, surrounded by tinted clouds. Although Jiangling is a thousand li away, we arrive in a day. Gibbons calling from riverside cliffs fail to detain us. Our small boat has already passed ten thousand peaks.
Visually echoing the idiosyncrasies of the natural forms, Taiga's fluid and eccentric writing accentuates the outlines of the mountains and rocks and adds a literary dimension to an essentially decorative work. This pair of panels is an excellent example of his mature style, in which planes of mountain peaks are interspersed with the unpainted forms of clouds, river, and waterfalls. Taiga's characteristic drollery delights those who savor details, such as the tiny figures and playful gibbons, done, like the vines entwining the trees, with his fingernails instead of a brush.
Taiga signed his bold transcription of the poem as Sangaku (Three Peaks), a sobriquet he assumed in 1748, after a journey to the three famous mountains of Japan. This screen was originally a pair of sliding doors for a residence in Niwase, near Izumo in western Japan.