Ike Gyokuran was a rare female artist working in a man’s world in eighteenth-century Japan. She was married to the painter Ike Taiga, and her works reflect the concerns of the literati movement, whose members emulated the lifestyles and ink-painting modes of Chinese scholar-artists.
Gyokuran’s imaginary landscape evokes the Chinese fable Peach Blossom Spring, in which mountains—as peaceful and idyllic retreats—play an important role. The legend tells of a fisherman who accidentally saiIs into a river Iined with peach blossoms. At the end of the river, he finds a narrow cave leading him into a utopian village, entirely isolated from the cares of the world. When the fisherman leaves, he can never find the Peach Blossom Spring again. The artist alludes to the story through exquisite pink-colored trees and a grotto-like tunnel in the lower right. From this tunnel, a road leads the viewer up through the mountains into an ethereal village.