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Landscape with a Solitary Traveler, c. 1780

Yosa Buson, Japanese

The nanga (southern painting) school, also called bunjinga (literati painting), was one of the two most dynamic schools of Japanese painting during the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth century. In contrast to the sensuous school of native decorative art, called ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world), the nanga school was the last manifestation of the centuries-old Japanese preoccupation with China. It was based on the monochrome-ink landscape styles of Chinese literati painters, adopted and modified according to Japanese taste, and was patronized principally by the cultivated upper strata of Japanese society living in Kyoto. Yosa Buson was one of the two greatest painters of the nanga school.

This scroll depicts a landscape punctuated by a narrow road that emerges from behind a large boulder on the left side of the painting and winds upward through the mountains on the right. A solitary traveler wrapped in a green cloak crosses a footbridge constructed over a swollen, rushing stream. Inscribed on the scroll is the last line of a poem by the Tang-period poet Han Yu (A.D. 768–824): A single path in cold mountains through the myriad streams. Using this quote as his theme, Buson evokes the sense of cold through the pale green and gray coloring, the leafless trees, and the traveler’s cloak.



(Kochukyo Co., Ltd., Tokyo);

purchased by Kimbell Art Foundation, Fort Worth, 1981.

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