Return to site

Sendai museum guide, October: Ink Wash Painting Exibition

Of Zen masters, swordsmen and magical ink

Hello, everyone! It’s getting colder outside, and indoor events are getting more and more popular, and it means that it’s time for October’s museum guide!

This time we will present only one event, but the one that shouldn’t be missed by anyone who likes Japanese culture - the ink wash painting exhibition from the collection of Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art.

Have you ever seen ink wash painting (水墨画)? This painting style originated in China, and later became a very important part of Japanese culture. And this is not just a painting style, it’s a philosophy, a way of painting an object’s spirit, not its’ form alone. In these paintings, we see the mood of a mountainous area, not just a mountain, the fragrance of flowers, not just a bouquet. Varying the ink density, the thickness of strokes, the greatest masters of ink wash painting could produce a whole picture with a single stroke.

In Japan, the most well-known master of ink wash painting is Sesshu. A Rinzai Zen priest, he had learned ink wash painting in China, where he was acknowledged as a great painter, too. Upon returning to Japan, he has established Unkoku-rin school, and many famous Japanese ink wash painting masters were his disciples or were deeply influenced by him. Sesshu was of Okayama prefecture descent, so Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art stores an impressing collection of his work, which is now introduced to us - those living in Sendai. Together with Sesshu, we have a chance to see some works of other masters of ink wash painting - Chinese paintings thoroughly collected by Japanese samurai families, works of Sesshu disciples and other famous masters like Miyamoto Musashi. Speaking of whom, probably you know this name, right? A famous swordsman, author of The Book of Five Rings, in his latter days, he became a buddhist monk and was practising calligraphy and ink wash painting. His works are very touching - adorable birds, cheerful Hotei, so calm and peaceful.

Works of Sesshu are different. With very powerful strokes he was drawing amazing landscapes with mountains and rivers, with slightest details like a small black dog sitting in front of a house. Deities in his drawings, like Tenjin or Shinno appear very human-like. It’s like you can go outside for a walk a