Taikō Josetsu - Catching a catfish with a gourd

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Catching a catfish with a gourd
Taikō Josetsu (Japan, ca.1350-1423)
Ink on paper, 111.5 × 75.8 cm (43.9 × 29.84 in)
Myōshin-ji temple, Kyoto, Japan

Taikō Josetsu is usually considered as the father of Japanese painting. A Chinese immigrant, Josetsu arrived to Japan around 1370, and he was the first to introduce into the country the art of the great Chinese painters of his era. He was also the master of several Japanese painters of his time, as Tensho Shubun.

“Catching cat-fish with a gourd” is without a doubt Josetsu’s most famous work. The lovely painting, declared a National Treasure in Japan, shows a man who strives to catch an elusive catfish with a gourd. The comic scene was commissioned by shogun Ashikaga Yoshimochi (1386-1428), although it is unclear whether its message is merely humorous or otherwise it seeks to inspire a deeper reflection.

The river landscape clearly shows the influence of the great Chinese painters such as Ma Yuan. The protagonists of the landscape are the mountains and streams. Even more characteristic is the concentration of the details in a very specific part of the painting. The accuracy and detail with which Josetsu painted the bamboos or the riverbanks contrast with the unfinished touch of the mountains on the background, partially obscured by the mist, like in the great landscape paintings of the Song Dynasty.

G. Fernández -

Josetsu - Catching a catfish with a gourd

Detail of the river landscape.

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