Important Cultural Property
By Shimomura Kanzan
A pair of six-fold screens
Color on gold silk
Taishō 4 (1915)
Tokyo National Museum
On one day of the equinoctial week, a blind and physically weak bonze, Shuntoku-maru, meditates on the Pure Land while facing the setting sun. He is in the garden of Shitennou-ji (Shitennou Temple) with plum blossoms blooming. The theme is the enlightened state of mind of Shuntoku-maru, in which he sees Buddha's merciful control and force even in the petals of the plum blossoms falling onto his sleeves. This painting depicts one scene in a youkyoku (nou chant), Yoroboshi (a weak bonze).
Kanzan lived in Wadayama, Yokohama, and was close to Hara Sankei. The idea of this painting was obtained from the garyubai (dragon shaped plum tree) in Sankei-en (Sankei-garden). As Kanzan knew about nou considerably well, this painting has the atmosphere of nou, along with the look of the bonze's face having something in common with nou masks. After losing Okakura Tenshin, Kanzan began to seek his own art, and he found a promising area in the themes from yokyouku.
The art historian Taki Seiichi praised this piece in his art review in the newspaper not only as a recent masterpiece of Kanzan, but also as the best among the paintings that had appeared in the Taisho period. Furthermore, Masamune Hakucho, a.k.a. XYZ of the Yomiuri newspaper, discussed this piece using an indicative expression that this painting "marked the maturity of the neo-classical style."