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Tsuda Hokkai (d. 1780)

“Travellers on Autumn River” 1756

Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk
117.0 x 41.2 cm. (46 x 16 1/8 in.)

“During the second lunar month of winter of the year
1756, painted for Master Kunzan by Tsu(da) Okei, called

Artist’s seals:
Okei; Jobun; Hosen hyakuseki
(“At the spring’s edge a hundred stones”)

Tsuda Hokkai followed his family tradition as clan director for the Owari clan in modern Nagoya. Well-known as a painter of landscapes and bird and flower subjects, Hokkai is credited with having introduced the so-called Shen Nanpin or Chinese Nanga style to the Nagoya area. A contemporary of Yosa Buson (1716-1783) and Ike Taiga (1723-1776), Hokkai was thus a member of that important generation of Nanga artists.

The likely recipient of this charming painting was Matsubara Taroemon, called Kunzan, a poet, scholar, and prolific author who served the Owari clan as private secretary. This landscape dedicated to him demonstrates the early Nanga style of relaxed brushwork within a relatively simple composition. The cliff rising on the right is a compositional device of much late Ming dynasty Chinese painting, and here it contrasts with the open space on the left that is enlivened by a boat and distant islands. Two sage-poets converse beneath three tall trees; might they represent Hokkai and Kunzan themselves?

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