Maples and River by Ogata Kenzan

  • Edo period
  • 18c
  • Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper
  • H-30.5 W-43.1
Catalogue Entry

by Ogata Kenzan
Edo period, 18th century
Hanging scroll, color on paper
Height, 30.5cm; width, 43.1cm

Ogata Kenzan (1663-1743) was the younger brother of Ogata Korin. Kenzan was famous in the first half of his life for his work as a potter, and in his later years, he also developed quite a following for his distinctive, refined paintings. There are a considerable number of superb works remaining by Kenzan which combine painting with a waka poem brushed in elegantly scattered calligraphy.

This painting is composed of a mountainside and flowing water stretching diagonally across the lower right-hand corner of the composition. Kenzan's brother Korin was particularly adept at this compositional form, and here Kenzan's use of the device allows us a glimpse of one aspect of Kenzan's painting studies under his older brother. The moon painted in silver paint has tarnished over the years, yet still casts its pure light.
Kenzan's distinctive calligraphy scattered across the upper left of the composition quotes Minamoto-no-Saneakira's poem from the Shinkokin Wakashu anthology about mountain winds gusting through red maple leaves under the moonlight of the moon of Ariake.
In general, Korin's paintings are awash with a somewhat sharp sensibility, while Kenzan's works have a gentleness that seems to soothe the tensions of their viewers. HK