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Dapeng [Ta-p’eng] (Japanese: Obaku Taiho) 1691-1774

“Snow Bamboo”

Hanging scroll, ink on silk
105.0 x 36.0 cm. (41 3/8 x 14 1/8 in.)

“Painted by the laughing old man from
China (Ta-)p’eng.”

Artist’s seals:
Ta-p’eng; Shih-shih Cheng-k’un
(“The Buddhist teacher Cheng-k’un”)

(see write up below)

Ta-p’eng was born in Ch’uan-chou, in the coastal province of Fukien. Taking Buddhist vows at the age of twenty-six, his life was transformed in 1722 when he was selected to go to Nagasaki in response to a request from the head of the Fukusai-ji there for assistance. By 1757 Taiho had become head of the important Zen temple of Mampukuji. His distinctive style of painting was taken up by such Japanese painters as Kakutei (1807-1879), whose work in turn influenced such masters as Kimura Kenkado (1736-1802) and Ito Jakucho (1716-1800). Although the formal and abstract aspects of Taiho’s style are most apparent, it should be noted that in such paintings as the present he also paid heed to nature, here to the effects of heavy snow on the bamboo leaves.

Taiho’s present “Bamboo in Snow” represents a culmination of his art, being one of the most powerful of his paintings and that most concerned with the formal arrangement of the pictorial elements in the frontal picture plane. Some spatial depth is suggested by the irregular ink-wash with which he covered most of the background, leaving white areas that serve to suggest wet snow adhering to the stalk and leaves of the bamboo. These last, arranged in a dynamic sequence to either side of the forceful stalk, create a most compelling design as well as impressive evocation of natural form.

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