The inscription on the painting identifies the model as Watanabe Kazan (1793-1841), whose work on this subject was in fact published in 1907,1 the year prior to the date of the present painting.
The focus of the painting is clearly intended to be the grove of blossoming plums, the shimmering blossoms of which capture the eye and attention immediately. Moving upward one encounters a servant brewing tea in a covered river skiff, on the roof of which perches a crane. Sitting on a rock overlooking the garden, with the river behind him, Lin Bu (965-1026), a famous poet who retired from the world and lived as a hermit on West Lake in Hangzhou, attended only by his blossoming plum trees and his cranes, the former, according to the poet, serving as his wife and the latter his children.
Born in 1858 in Shizuoka prefecture, Seigai was devoted to painting from his childhood and learned first under Yamamoto Aizan and later with Mochizuki Unso. Both of these were followers of Tsubaki Chinzan (1801-54). In his later years Seigai became famous as a connoisseur of works by Kazan and Chinzan, at one time even holding a market for them. The known copies, including the present painting, suggest that he followed his models closely rather than changing them to accord with more contemporary taste, responding with elegance to give dignity to the older style.
1. Shinbi taikan, 1907l. 14. It was then owned by Akino Masataro, a member of a very influential family in Shimada, Shizuoka prefecture. We thank Hiroshi Kawasaki for this reference as well as for many other contributions and corrections to these entries.