The holding of a monthly workshop by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems: About “Sansui Zukan” said to have been painted by Gion Nankai and the Gajo (an album of paintings) possessed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Monkeys” painted by Kawanabe Kyosai, in the Kindai Nihon Gajo album of paintings possessed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
©The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Charles Stewart Smith Collection, Gift of Mrs. Charles Stewart Smith, Charles Stewart Smith Jr., and Howard Caswell Smith, in memory of Charles Stewart Smith, 1914

 The Art Research, Archives and Information Systems held a monthly workshop on the topic and with the presenters mentioned below on June 4.

– Takuyo Yasunaga (researcher at the department): About “Sansui Zukan,” said to have been painted by Gion Nankai (possessed by the Tokyo National Museum)
– Ms. Eriko Tomizawa-Kay (Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures) “Modern Japanese-style painters observed in collections of paintings outside Japan and their drawing activities – mainly about the establishment and acceptance of ‘Kindai Nihon Gajo (commonly known as the Brinkley Album)’ ”
 On the topic of “Sansui Zukan,” a painted scroll in the Edo period that is said to have been painted by Gion Nankai and depicting the Kumano pilgrimage routes running from Wakayama to the Nachi falls via Nakahechi, Hongu, and Shingu, Ms. Yasunaga discussed the possibility of the work having been painted by Gion Nankai [1676-1751], based on the geographically accurate depiction of Kumano and the characteristics of its expression by comparing the scroll with Nankai’s other newly found works and other measures. In addition, she also pointed out the scroll’s relationship with the learning activities of Chinese paintings by early Japanese bunjinga (literati painting) painters and new expressions of actual sceneries. However, attendees of the workshop provided various remarks such as the issue of whether the painting scroll was just a sketch and the relationship with other paintings of the same age.
 Ms. Tomizawa made presentations based on the survey of “Kindai Nihon Gajo” possessed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. While paintings included in this gajo are separated individually at present, it originally consisted of 95 paintings created by seven Japanese-style painters who were active in the Meiji era, including Kawanabe Kyosai, Hashimoto Gaho and Kawabata Gyokusho. Ms. Tomizawa’s research revealed that dealer and collector Francis Brinkley (1841-1912) originally asked Kyosai to create an album of 100 paintings. However, as Kyosai died in 1889, the creation of the album was divided among the other six painters, according to her research. Charles Stewart Smith, a prominent U.S. entrepreneur who stayed in Japan in 1892 and 1893, purchased the album from Brinkley and Smith’s bereaved family donated the album to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The album remains in the museum’s possession to this day.
 Among the paintings included in the album, 12 painted by Kyosai were temporarily returned to Japan and exhibited along with their sketches (possessed by the Kawanabe Kyosai Memorial Museum) at the exhibition “KYOSAI-Master painter and his student Josiah Conder” held at the Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum, Tokyo, in the Marunouchi district of Tokyo from June 27 to Sep 6. The elaborate brushworks are prominently respected among other paintings in the album, so we recommend that you see them on this occasion.

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