Nagasawa Rosetsu (Japanese, 17541799)
Pair of six–panel folding screens; ink on gilded paper; Each 67 3/8 x 146 3/4 in. (171.1 x 372.7 cm)
The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975 (1975.268.75, 76)
The gifted eccentric painter Nagasawa Rosetsu depicted well-known classic images from Chinese literature in a bold manner filled with expressiveness and emotion. The right screen features a Chinese recluse wearing a scholar's veil. Sitting in his thatched hermitage by the seashore, he is served wine by his attendants. The rustic retreat, with its rows of barren willow trees, suggests that he is Tao Qian (365427), a revered poet who withdrew from official life to a country house among willows and plum trees. The opposite screen contains a dark, swelling cliff face that looms over a small boat. One of the figures in the vessel might be the great Chinese poet Su Shi (Su Dongpo, 10361101) as he rides past the Red Cliff, an outing that inspired one of his best-known poems. The use of ink monochrome and choice of themes drawn from Chinese literature follow painting practices associated with Zen temples in the Muromachi period (13921573). However, Rosetsu has made the subject and medium his own tools of self-expression. The cliff face, for example, is rendered with dark ink and large, quickly executed brushstrokes that create a powerful effect. The choppiness of the water as the small sailboat is buffeted about further heightens the dramatic mood. Painted on nonabsorbent gold leaf with thick brushes, the screens convey a strong sense of pattern in keeping with the decorative interests often found in yamato-e.