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Totoki Baigai (1749-1804)

“Bamboo and Epidendrum” 1802

Pair of hanging scrolls, ink on silk
Each 176.3 x 47.2 cm. (69 3/8 x 34 1/4 in.)

(R) “Within my heart there are a thousand measures of ink, and if one scatters ink and does a painting or calligraphy, spontaneously a pure wind arises, jade-like in its sounds.

Painted and inscribed by Baigai.”

(L) “During autumn of the year 1802, painted by Baigai.”

Artist’s seals:
Kyukan-seiheki (“Absence from office becomes a habit”); and one other

The right-hand scroll features several stalks of bamboo rising beside a garden rock. Ink values are varied from dark to light, and from wet to dryer, so as to produce the illusion of some pictorial depth. The left hand scroll portrays epidendrum growing on an earthern slope and from a garden rock rising above. The two paintings together demonstrate great mastery of brush and ink work, with textures and tonalities providing visual interest to entice the eyes of viewers. Totoki Shi (1749-1804), called Baigai, was born in Osaka but educated in Edo in the Chinese classics, calligraphy and painting, achieving wide recognition as a scholar and literati artist. In Kyoto Baigai studied painting with Minagawa Kien (1734-1807) and Ike Taiga (1723-1776), creating an individual style that was based especially on that of Taiga. The painters shared an interest in creating textured surfaces and in the expressive effects of strong accents, seen here in the strongly varied accents of ink for the bamboo and rocks.

It was likely in the company of such masters as Kien and Taiga that Baigai met Matsuyama Sessai (1755-1820), who on one recorded occasion invited a number of people to a large banquet. During the course of the dinner, presumably after drinking and becoming suitable inspired, Baigai entertained the group by singing popular songs, dancing solo, and even performing conjuring tricks. When the assembled guests were asked to contribute to a commemorative work of art, Baigai painted a picture and added a poem that were held by general agreement to be the best of all of the various efforts. In 1784 Lord Sessai asked Baigai to accompany him to his fief at Nagashima in Ise Province, where the versatile artist opened a school for the children of samurai. In 1790 Baigai received permission to visit Nagasaki but, after overstaying his permit for that fascinating port city, Baigai lost his job and returned to Osaka.

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