Important Cultural Property
By Uragami Gyokudō
1 hanging scroll
Ink and light color on silk
Edo period/Kansei 4 (1792)
Tokyo National Museum
Uragami Gyokudō (1745–1820) is one of the most important literati-painters from the late Edo period. He is well known not only for his shishoga (poetry, calligraphy, and painting), but also for his love of the koto, as is shown by the fact that he also called himself Gyokudō Kinshi (Gykudō, a koto player) after the seven-stringed koto he had obtained. He was born into a samurai family in Kamogata-han, which was a branch of Ikeda-han in Okayama, but he fled the han when he was fifty. He toured different places in Japan freely thereafter and enjoyed a life of literature and art while making friends with men of culture in those places.
This painting is known to have been painted when Gyokudō was forty-eight, two years before fleeing the han, from his signature "Jinshijunshun Gyokudō Kinshi" (Jinshijunshun specifies the year). In the foreground are trees painted with thin sumi, and we can see the houses in the bottom right corner of the picture and between the mountains that were put on top of one another vertically. One kōshi (person of a noble character) is crossing the bridge, as if he were playing in a world created on this landscape painting.
The brightness of this painting, with plenty of deep blue and yellowish-brown, differs from the style of suiboku paintings that Gyokudō created late in life with his own technique of half-dried and dried brushes. On the other hand, the motifs of horizontal lines of sumi on the rocks and kōshi crossing the bridge are also in Gyokudō's later paintings without exception, so we can see some signs of his later work as well. In addition, Gyokudō created many paintings in his sixties and seventies, but his earlier works with the year of production are few in number. This piece is valuable in that respect.