Places, Images, Times & Transformations

Uragami Gyokudō

(1745-1820). Bunjinka (literati painting) artist; better known in his day as a musician and poet. Born into a samurai family in Bizen Province (now part of Okayama Prefecture). In his music, Gyokudō revived saibara, the ancient folk songs of Japan that had been incorporated into formal court music, by setting saibara poems to revised melodies with qin (zither) accompaniment. In 1794, after the death of his wife, he began to paint seriously, and in his final decade he painted most of his masterworks. Working in paper and monochrome ink, he developed a technique of overlaying gray and black ink through wet and dry brushwork. He compositions are usually dominated by tall central mountains rising over a screen of trees in the foreground; frequently a tiny figure of a sage appears, sometimes carrying a zither. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)

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