Bamboo Grass and Waves

Kamisaka Sekka Japanese

Not on view

Images of water with waves and bamboo grass (sasa) are painted on opposite sides of these sliding-door panels. Here and there a pooled pigment effect (tarashikomi), a signature device of Rinpa-school artists, can be discerned. Kamisaka Sekka was trained in traditional Japanese painting styles, but government-sponsored trips to Paris and Glasgow introduced him to the art of the West, particularly Art Nouveau. Upon returning to Japan, he blended Rinpa-school techniques with elements of Western taste.

During the summer Tanabata Festival, people write wishes on paper strips and fasten them to sasa leaves, often setting them afloat on a river. The Tanabata story, derived from ancient Chinese legend, describes two celestial lovers separated by the heavenly river (Milky Way) and allowed to meet only once a year. The waves and sasa on Sekka’s screens may be a reference to this festival and tale.

Bamboo Grass and Waves, Kamisaka Sekka (Japanese, 1866–1942), Set of four sliding-door panels (fusuma); ink and gold on paper, Japan

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