Landscapes with the Chinese Literati Su Shi and Tao Qian

Artist: Nagasawa Rosetsu (Japanese, 1754–1799)

Period: Edo period (1615–1868)

Date: 1795–99

Culture: Japan

Medium: Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink on gold leaf on paper

Dimensions: Image (each screen): 67 3/8 in. x 12 ft. 2 3/4 in. (171.1 x 372.7 cm)

Classification: Screens

Credit Line: 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

Accession Number: 1975.268.75, .76


The forbidding, grotto-pierced precipice at left suggests a site on the Yangzi River where the Chinese poet Su Shi (Dongpo, 1037–1101) composed his famous “Ode on the Red Cliff.” The gentler scene at the right, centering on a scholar with young attendants in a hut within a willow grove, is meant to depict the Chinese poet-recluse Tao Qian (Tao Yuanming, 365–472) in his country retreat. The artist seems to have set up an explicit contrast between the two scenes: Su’s forced exile (wild) against Tao’s self-imposed exile (calm).

Rosetsu developed such an idiosyncratic style that he became known as one of the “Three Eccentrics” (the other two being Itō Jakuchū and Soga Shōhaku). He is renowned for his bravura handling of line and wash, as seen in these screens.