Hanging scroll painting: Seeking Plum-blossoms in the Snow

mid - late 16th century

Royal Ontario Museum

Royal Ontario Museum
Toronto, Canada

As is common in medieval ink landscape painting in Japan, the subject of the composition is man within nature. At the bottom, a figure crosses a bridge over a fast-flowing river, embarking on the long trek through the mountains towards the temple buildings higher up. The scene is set in a winter, adding to the hardship of the experience; the mountains are areas of unpainted paper, suggesting the deep covering of snow. The theme can be understood as emblematic of the individual's journey through life. The style of the painting, with sharp contours on the rock forms, detailed architectural rendering and thin, angular pine trees, is indebted to Tensho Shubun (active 1403-c.1450), who was director of the official painting bureau for the Ashikaga military leader (shogun) in Kyoto.


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