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2. Tomioka Tessai (1837-1924)
Gorge of Yabakei, a delusion of human beings
Signed: Tessai gaishi
Seals: Tessai, Tomioka Hyakuren, Eisetsushin
Technique: sumi and some colours on paper 118.2 x 25.8
Box: authorized in the autumn 1923 by his student Andô Kôsai (1862-1939)
Condition: lightly foxed and creased

Inscription reads: 此境眼前聊妄想,幾人林下是真休。
What I see in front of me seems a delusion,
Those few people in the forest are truly at rest!

     A line from a poem by Su Shi (1037-1101)

The Yabakei Gorge is an area of outstanding natural beauty located in in the north of Oita Prefecture on Kyūshū, south of the town of Nakatsu.

Tessai was born in Kyoto into a family selling robes and accessories for the Buddhist clergy. As a result of a childhood illness he became partly deaf. It was therefore considered improbable that he would ever become a successful shopkeeper. Instead he went to study the Japanese classics in order to become a Shinto priest. He also did Chinese studies, specializing in the teachings of the neo-confucianist Wang Yang-Ming. Later he would study Buddhism, literature and Shingaku, a semi-religious system for self-cultivation.

As a youth Tessai met Ōtagaki Rengetsu (1791-1875) and became her special protégé. She taught him waka and encouraged his artistic inclinations. Tessai was mainly self-taught, indepently studying Nanga painting and learning from friends. He was, however, strongly influenced by Shinten’ô.

In the final years of the Tokugawa era Tessai was involved in the pro-imperialist movement. For fear of being arrested he left Kyoto in 1861 and travelled to Nagasaki. It was the first of many trips; Tessai became and avid traveller. In 1882 he settled in Kyoto where he spent the rest of his life. Although he worked as a priest at several Shinto shrines, he saw painting as his chief occupation. Between 1894 and 1904 he was a teacher at the Kyoto Prefectural Art School and he was a regular contributor to exhibitions of the Nanga Society. In 1917 he was appointed Artist to the Imperial Household and towards the end of his life he received an honorary court-rank. Tessai is often seen as the last great exponent of the Nanga school. (AB)

Aichi arts Center 1996
Kato 1998
Morioka & Berry ‘99 pp. 116-121 (# 20-21)
Morioka & Berry ‘08 p. 305-06 (# 11, 46)
Roberts p. 181