Painting by Wada Gozan (1800-1870)
Poem by Otagaki Rengestu (1791 - 1875)
Ink on paper
99,5 x 30 cm
The poem reads:
But for the footprints
of a fox who howled
through the night
there are no shadows
a snowy mountain village.
This artwork and words combine to transport us in this quiet winter scene of a mountain village.
The painting style is delicate and refined. Of particular beauty are the firs, the only element that contrasts with the white snow, that dominate the scene from above; They are used with a technique that involves the use of a large amount of water in the preparation of the ink, so that the color will dilute resulting evanescent and thus giving rise to attractive shades.
Poet, calligrapher, painter and potter, Otagaki Rengetsu was a Japanese Buddhist nun and one of the few prominent Japanese female artists. Daughter of unknown parents, she was adopted by a samurai family and spent her childhood at Kameoka Castle as a courtesan until the age of 16; during her stay, Otagaki excelled in waka poetry, a Japanese classical verse particularly popular among women during the Edo period. After an unfortunate stage of her life in which both her husbands and her three infant children died, she decided to change life radically and during the night in which her last husband passed away, she cut off her hair and made clear that she would never marry again: at the age of 33 she became a nun of the Pure Land sect of Japanese Buddhism, taking the name “Rengetsu”, meaning Lotus Moon. Despite the hardness of her life, she created a series of gently, lyrical and highly sophisticated paintings, embellished with refined verses inscribed in a fine calligraphy. In her poetry, Rengestu celebrates what she experienced in her daily life, combining the spiritual with the tangible but rarely using direct Buddhist references.
Wada Gozan, nows as Gesshin (Moon Mind, 800-1870) invited her to spent her last years in a tea hut on the grounds of the Shinko-in temple where she deeply immersed herself in the study of Buddhism, continuing her artistic occupations.