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Unformatted text preview: distances in the walking , and backgrounds in the
Sung monochrome painting appealed particularly to the medieval
Japanese because its medium of black ink was so compatible with the
cold, withered, and lonely tastes of the age. In the first phase of painting
in the Sung manner during the fourteenth century, Japanese artists
devoted themselves primarily to portrait and figure work; but in the fifteenth century they turned increasingly to landscapes.
Among the greatest masters of monochromatic ink work of the fifteenth century was Shûbun (d. 1450), a Zen priest of the Shòkokuji,
one of the Gozan or Five Zen Temples of Kyoto. Although Shûbun, who
was active during the second quarter of the century, is reputed to have
painted many different subjects in a variety of mediums, the only extant
works attributed to him are landscapes, mostly on folding screens and
sliding doors. A typical Shûbun landscape is “visionary” in that it is a
depiction, derived wholly from imagination, of a scene set in China (fig.
36). Like that of other Japanese artists of his time, Shûbun’s work is also
impressionistic, since space is not clearly differentiated (that is, it is difficult to judge the relative depths of the various sections of a painting) and
mountains, cliffs, and other pictorial elements often appear to be suspended or not properly integrated with the rest of the landscape. By contrast, Sung-style landscapes by Chinese artists are notable for the care
with which they are constructed: foregrounds, middle distances, and
backgrounds are clearly distinguishable and all parts of a picture “fit
together” into a coherent reproduction, albeit stylized, of a view from
Thus there appears to have been a fundamental difference in the approach to landscape between the Sung-style Chinese artist and such Japanese painters as Shûbun, a difference that seems to consist in the fact that Fig. 36 Landscape attributed to Shûbun (Seattle
Art Museum) 132 The Canons of Medieval Taste the Chinese artist was as much concerne...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.
- Spring '13