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Sesson Shukei, about 1504-1589
Hatsuboku (Splashed Ink) Landscape
Ink on paper

A comparison of this work and the Kasuga mandala in this gallery demonstrates how an ink monochrome painter's approach to landscape differed from that of artists who worked in the indigenous yamato-e style. Ink monochrome painters relied on graded washes of sumi, the black ink used for writing, and a repertoire of texture strokes, many derived from calligraphy, to communicate a sense of the landscape.

Few ink monochrome landscapes represent an actual location. They were generally imaginary. This is especially the case with hatsuboku, or "splashed ink," landscapes, such as this work by Sesson. In hatsuboku landscapes, the artists "play" with the ink as a form of meditation or recreation. They usually began by "splashing" the ink washes used to define mountains, hills and other landscape elements, and then added the finer details (temples, boats, trees, and people) in darker ink with quick, highly calligraphic strokes.

Splashed ink landscape painting originated in China and was transmitted to Japan when Zen and its related arts became popular in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Initially, Japanese Zen monks, such as Sesson, were the only practitioners of this art, but professional painters soon acquired a fondness for this unique form of expression. The next work in this exhibition, a hatsuboku landscape by Kano Tsunenobu, is one example of a professional work in this style.

Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ackland Fund; 88.21

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Copyright (c) 2000, Mayumi Ishida, All Rights Reserved Last Updated: April 11, 2000