IKE TAIGA (1723-1776)
Flowering plum tree with full moon
Finger painting, ink on paper
53 1/2 x 22 7/8 in.
Price on Request
As a member of the second generation of literati painters in Kyoto, Ike Taiga is celebrated for seamlessly combining the classical Chinese aesthetics and techniques with those of traditional Japanese painting. In his twenties, Taiga experimented with the then-popular Chinese practice of finger painting (shitoga), a technique that used parts of the hand, fingertips and fingernails to create shadings and strokes not feasible with a brush. He may have been inspired to do so by his supporter and mentor, the Chinese painting connoisseur Yanagisawa Kien (1706-58) who is said to have originated it in Japan. Taiga was so adept at this novel technique that he received numerous commissions from important figures when visiting Edo in 1748.
Here in this early work from his first decade as a professional artist, Taiga accentuates the massive trunk of the ancient plum tree with bold punctuated dark-ink rapid finger painting while the small blossoms are finely and more precisely articulated. The wet wash indicating the night sky pushes the unpainted moon to the attention of the viewer. Painted by brush rather than hand, a dramatic pair of six-fold screens depicting old plum trees in the mist in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum Art (see Fischer, cat. no. 38) illustrate the artist’s confident mastery of the brush but also contrasts pooled ink with heavy dark ink for the tree, leaving the center of the trunk unpainted. The plum, a symbol of reclusiveness and purity, was one of the Four Gentlemen’s ink painting subjects according to Chinese tradition. It is a surprisingly rare subject in Taiga’s oeuvre.