National TreasureLandscape with ink broken

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  • 紙本墨画山水図
  • By Sesshū Touyou. Preface by Sesshū, praises by Gettou Shūkyou and other five monks
  • 1 hanging scroll
  • Ink on paper
  • 148.6x32.7
  • Muromachi period/Meiou 4(1495)
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • A-282

At the top of the scroll is a dedicatory inscription written by Sesshû (1420-1506?) himself, giving a date of the middle of the third month of Meiô 4 (1495) and his age as seventy-six, as well as poems inscribed by six celebrated poet-monks from Gozan Zen temples in Kyoto. From the content of these inscriptions as well as the style of the painted image, it is clear that this is a rare original work by Sesshû. According to Sesshû's dedication, a certain Josui Sôen, who had studied painting under Sesshû at Suô (present-day Yamaguchi Prefecture), was to return to his home in Sagami (modern Kanagawa Prefecture) and requested Sesshû to create this painting as a certificate that he had properly inherited the master's painting method. Having received the scroll with Sesshû's painting and dedication, Sôen stopped in Kyoto on his return home and had the six esteemed monks inscribe their poems as well.

Sesshû also noted in his dedication that he had traveled to China and studied the paintings of Li Zai (active c. 1425-1470) and Zhang Yousheng (dates unknown), and that in Japan he carried on the painting traditions of the painter-monks Josetsu and Shûbun, who were active in the Muromachi period (1392-1573), thus clarifying his painting lineage and proclaiming his own sense of importance.

This landscape painting employs the splashed-ink (J. hatsuboku) method, in which outlines are eschewed and ink appears to be flung at the paper in an uncontrolled manner. Although light and dark tones of ink are used throughout, the painting still has a strong framework, demonstrating Sesshû's characteristic stability and sense of structure. In his dedication, Sesshû calls this the "broken-ink" (J. haboku) method, thus this painting has traditionally been known as the "Broken-ink Landscape."