A Japanese vertical hanging scroll-painting, Kakejiku, attributed to Nagasawa Rosetsu (1754-1799)
“Seeing Lo San (Lo mountain) floating far over lake, shadows of leaves reflected by waves on lake, small boat moves with gentile wind, before the scenery (I am) sitting quietly with fishing rod.”
Signed and with seal of Nagasawa Rosetsu and with text of a Chinese Go-Gon-Zekku poem (a four-line poem each line with five characters) by the Confucian scholar Murase Kõtei (1746-1818)
Ink on paper laid down on silk, in a wooden box with an inscription saying that the poem is by Murase Kotei and the painting by Nagasawa Rosetsu.
L. 228 x 122 cm (scroll)
L. 172 x W. 104 cm (painting)
Collection late Peter Poldervaart, Amsterdam (chief paper-restorer, Rijksmuseum)
Rosetsu, along with Soga Shohaku and Ito Jakuchu, was known as one of the “Three Eccentrics,” painting in a new and highly individualistic style. Rosetsu was quick-witted, versatile, mischievous and had exceptional technical skills. He was also known as a rather argumentative hothead and his behaviour and excessive drinking are part of the background that adds to the enjoyment of his pictures.
Rosetsu, who came from a low-ranking samurai family, studied in Kyoto with the famous Maruyama Õkyo who taught direct observation of nature and encouraged a sense of realism in painting. However, Rosetsu soon opened his own studio, discarded his teacher’s careful realism, and went on to become a pioneer of modernist expressionism. He died on an outing to Osaka at the age of only forty-six. Some say an envious rival put poison in his lunch box, others tell of him slitting his throat due to financial troubles. What is certain is that he was unusually confident and relished novelty, with
a streak of vulgarity. In the early 20th century, the art historian Aimi Kou described Rosetsu as follows: “Mentally and physically dynamic in every respect and with a life full of drama, he is the kind of person who would make enough material for a one-act play at the Imperial Theater.”
In 1786 Rosetsu, at the advice of his teacher, left Kyoto to work for one year in Zen-Buddhist temples, producing over 140 large wall- and screen paintings which luckily survive to this day in these temples
Matthew McKelway, Rosetsu: Ferocious brush, Publ. Prestel, 2018