“In the cold kitchen there is wine
so I am not aware of the cold,
heaven and earth seem vast;
An old horse would prefer to endure
a thousand-mile journey,
Sparrows roost early
on a branch in safety.1
Follow what your heart desires2
and old age will be reached,
But follow what the world recommends
and affairs are still more difficult;
Wealth, position, and fame
are all dreams,
Why worry about emulating
the man from Handan?3
On an autumn day during the year 1879 I painted this at the Kochiku Garden for the pure enjoyment of Master Tone. Gaku.”
Seals: Gogaku; Kochiku-enyi Le qinshu yixiao yu (“Enjoying the lute and calligraphy so as to extinguish melancholy”)
“A lone crane calls from the middle of the heavens,
Turtle walk over the stone steps;
A gentleman in spring sleeps in beauty,
leisurely dreaming he enters the Immortal’s mountains.
On an autumn day during the year 1879 I painted this at the Kochiku Garden in Kumagami at the lofty request of Master Tone. Gaku,”
Seals: Gaku azana Gogaku; Kochiku-en shu; Zhizhu (“Knower of Bamboo”); Le qinshu yixiao yu (“Enjoying the lute and calligraphy so as to extinguish melancholy”)
“On an auspicious day during the third lunar month of the year 1880, the thirteenth of the Meiji era. Master Gogaku of Bungo Koku (now Oita prefecture), painted Pine Tree, Bamboo, Blossoming Plum and Autumn Landscape in large scrolls.” Seal: Tone Kotaro acquired them.
The “Autumn Landscape” on the right presents a scene of bucolic solitude, with, in the foreground, houses raised on pilings above a river, the banks of which are defined by rocks and trees. Additional houses punctuate the structure of the peaks that rise above. At the time he created this painting the artist was seventy-three years old, and the inscription here suggests that even then he, like the old horse would prefer to keep moving rather than rest in peace and safety like the sparrows.
The lefthand scroll portrays the “Blossoming Plum; Pine, and Bamboo” that are grouped as the Three Friends of Winter in recognition of their ability to persevere even in the depths of cold. The theme of endurance during hardship was apt for the artist and perhaps for the recipient as well.
Hirano Gogaku (1806-1893) was born in Hita, Bungo (now Oita prefecture), the son of the chief priest of Shonen-ji. He was then adopted by the chief priest of Sennen-ji, also in Hita, and later inherited that position. Studying Chinese classics at Kangi-en, a private school in Hita run by Hirose Tanso, Gogaku came to excel in writing poetry. At about the age of thirty he came under the influence of Tamomura Chikuden (1777-1835) and began painting, often travelling to Kyoto where he became acquainted with many literati such as Nakina Kaioku (1778-1863). Although he never went to Edo (Tokyo) Gogaku did become well known there during the early Meiji era because of his friendship with Matsukata Masayoshi, an official and later prime minister, who had seen and admired Gogaku’s talent when governor of Hitao. Gogaku was invited work for the government in Tokyo but refused to accept. His basic attitudes to life and art are expressed in the legends of seals on the present painting: “Enjoying the lute and calligraphy so as to extinguish melancholy;” “Knower of Bamboo;” and especially the name of his garden, “Master of the Old Bamboo Garden.”
1. This line is a quote from Zhuangzi.
2. A quote from Confucius.
3. Zhuangzi tells the story about the countryman who went to Handan, the capital of the Zhao kingdom, and tried to learn the elegant way of walking that was current there. He failed, and on leaving had to crawl since he had forgotten his original way of walking.
Painting on right details:
Painting on left details: