MATSUBAYASHI KEIGETSU (1876-1963)
Blossoming cherry tree in moonlight
58 x 16 1/2 in. (painting)
86 1/2 x 22 in. (with mount)
Ink on silk; original signed box and mount
Matsubayashi Keigetsu excelled in many of the classical arts, including poetry, calligraphy, and painting, but most especially, ink painting. Although he worked in other styles, his most celebrated works are large-scale nanga compositions, often, as here, inscribed with long Chinese poems. This works depicts the artist’s signature motif–– blossoming double-cherry (Kwanzan) trees in moonlight. His most celebrated and remarkably similar work, but in a horizontal format, is in the collection of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. As in this composition, the hazy moon rises behind a fully blossoming branch of a double-cherry tree rendered in subtle and masterful gradations of ink on silk highlighted in white.
This works depicts the artist’s signature motif–– blossoming double-cherry (Kwanzan) trees in moonlight.
Born in the ceramic center of Hagi in Yamaguchi Prefecture, at age eighteen, Matsubayashi Keigetsu travelled to Tokyo to study under nanga master Noguchi Yūkoku (1825-98) and grew to become a central supporter for the Chinese-inspired nanga aesthetic in the first half of the twentieth century. Selected for the second Bunten national exhibition in 1908, he would continue to exhibit at the Bunten and its successors throughout most of his long life and was appointed to the Teikoku Bijutsuin (Imperial Art Academy) in 1932. An influential figure, he served as president of both the Nihon Bijutsu Kyōkai and Nihon Nanga kai and then became a member of the Imperial Household Art Committee. Shortly before his death, in 1958, he received the Order of Cultural Merit. Keigetsu was one of the last artists to be appointed (in 1944) to the order of Teishitsu Gigeiin (Artist-Craftsman to the Imperial Household) and received many further honors during his prolific postwar career. A wide-ranging fiftieth-anniversary exhibition of Keigetsu's work was held in 2013 at The Nerima Art Museum, Tokyo.
月色 朦朧 (もうろう) として 微 (かすか) に陰 (ひかり) 有り
(Gesshoku mourō toshite kasukani hikari ari)
満簾 (まんれん) の花影 宵の深きを覚 (おぼ) ゆ
(Manren no hanakage yoi no fukaki wo oboyu)
(Rōsei hitatari tsukurumo hitone gataku)
一片の春愁 (しゅんしゅう) 水に付きて沈む
(Ippen no shunshū mizuni tsukite shizumu)
In the hazy moonlight, there are faint shadows
from the flowers cast onto the blinds
revealing the depth of night.
And still I cannot sleep as
this springtime melancholy within me is like a flower petal
sinking slowly under water.