Washing Away the Vulgar While Viewing a Waterfall

Tomioka Tessai 富岡鉄斎 Japanese

Not on view

In this narrow vertical composition by Tomioka Tessai, four gentlemen in pale robes are depicted relaxing in a thatched pavilion on a lofty cliff, enjoying the view of a waterfall. They are indulging in cups of wine served from jars fashioned from gourds. The rocky outcrops are energetically delineated with layers of wet and dry brushstrokes, with a cluster of rapidly brushed vertical lines radiating from the rock formation below that can be read as plants at the water’s edge. Branches of a tree with autumnal foliage, rendered in pale red, hangs in front of the waterfall, adding to the serene but cheerful atmosphere of the scene.

Tessai was a celebrated painter and calligrapher who was one of the leading figures of the Bunjin literati painting style during the Meiji and Taishō periods. He received training in traditional painting from previous generations of Nanga artists and is sometimes referred to as the last great literati painter in Japan due to his deep cultivation of Chinese literature and art. This painting, which was created in the autumn of the very last year of his life (he died December 31, 1924), showcases his mastery of literati themes and demonstrates the sophisticated and energetic brushwork techniques he developed over the course of his career.

Washing Away the Vulgar While Viewing a Waterfall, Tomioka Tessai 富岡鉄斎 (Japanese, 1836–1924), Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, Japan

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