Friday, June 23, 2017

Laurie Kuntz writes

Peonies and Peacocks

After a painting by Maruyama Okyo (1733-95)
painted in 1777 during the Edo Period

In Japan, spring peonies bloom and girls learn
of the subtle opening of petals,
the faint odor of a blossoming season.
Mothers whisper, tateba shakuyaku, behave like a peony,
grace in fullness, reserve in a showy petal.

Maruyama paints peonies as backdrop,
fading flowers become ground cover
under peacocks strutting their palettes
muting all other colors.

To look beyond the painting,
is to enter a garden at dusk
and see tulips closing as the cicadas' drone
harmonizes with the conversation of women,
who wear the luxury of rose scented baths.

Their kimonos swish in the grace of windswept grass,
they finger blue and white teacups, dwell on the fine sip of conversation,
and by the peonies' blind bloom they stand on ceremony
accepting the dimming light, the truth about petals,
and the conceit of the strutting peacock
living in grace and ceremony,
not far beyond the scope of the picture.
 File:Okyo Peacocks and Peonies.jpg
 Botan-Kujaku-zu (Peonies and Peacocks) -- Maruyama Okyo

Maruyama Okyo - Peony And Peacocks:
 Peonies and Peacocks -- Nagasawa Rosetsu

1 comment:

  1. Maruyama Masataka was born into a peasant family, though his mother was of samurai descent. As a teenager he moved to Kyoto and apprenticed to a toy maker, where he painted the faces onto dolls. When the shop began selling European stereoscopes ("nozoki-megane"), European toys in which pictures are viewed through a peephole to give the scene the illusion of three dimensions. This was Maruyama's first look at Western-style perspective, and soon he was creating his own megane-e (eyeglass pictures). Then he studied painting under Ishida Yūtei, a member of the Kanō-ha lineage that borrowed heavily from Chinese painting; it called its style “unchangeable through 10,000 generations” and dominated Japanese art from the late 15th until the late 19th century. Maruyama became an admirer of Ch'ien Hsüan's 13th-century flower drawings and took the name Ōkyo ("kyo" was a tribute to Ch'ien). For awhile he even adopted the Chinese practice of signing his name with one character. He also studied the Dutch paintings being introduced via Nagasaki, th only port open to foreigners. For nearly a decade he wasthe resident artist at the Enman-in temple in Ōtsu , where he developed his shasei-ga (sketching) techniques. His realism differed from previous Japanese schools in its devotion to nature as the ultimate source with no regard for sentiment. He was perhaps the first Japanese artist to depict the realistic movement of birds and animals and to do life drawings from nude models. Nevertheless, he retained the Sino-Japanese tradition of depicting objects with very little setting; often his pictures feature a single subject on a plain background; unlike in European paintings, he rarely used midtones. One a daimyō commissioned him to paint a "ghost image" of a lost family member; once the work was completed, the ghost image left the painting and flew away. Other painters criticized his style as too concerned with physical appearances; as the artist Soga Shohaku remarked, "If you want a real painting, you must come to see me. If it’s only a drawing you’re after, you should try Ōkyo." But his approach was popular and he eventually established his own school in Kyoto whih attracted many talented students, including Nagasawa Rosetsu, who joined his school at 25. Ōkyo expelled him three times but also assihned important commissions to him. His early work was strongly imitative of Ōkyo, but he broke away before he was 30. He went on to paint ethereal and abstracted distortions of landscapes, and most of his paintings were clearly the work of a few minutes of intense activity. When he was 46 he was poisoned to death by a jealous rival.


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