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An image of Conversing learnedly in a garden landscape by Monk AISEKI


(Japan  – 1803?)

Conversing learnedly in a garden landscape
Alternative title:
Rinsen seiwa
Place of origin
Edo (Tokugawa) period 1615 - 1868 → Japan
18th century
Media category
Materials used
hanging scroll; ink and slight colour on paper

139.0 x 45.0 cm image; 205.5 x 61.7 x 69.0 cm scroll

Signature & date
Signed u.l., in Japanese [inscribed in ink] "Aiseki [artist's seal]". Not dated.
Purchased 1980
Accession number
Not on display
Further information

Nanga is the Japanese interpretation of Chinese literati painting and constituted a major art movement in the Edo period (1603-1868). Nanga means 'Southern painting' and the work refers to the Chinese theory of the Northern and Southern schools of painting: Northern school indicating colourful, detailed conservative painting; Southern school indicating spontaneous, skilful, yet very personal ink paintings. The two main characteristics of this school - reflected in this painting - are a love of virtuoso brushwork and a love of Nature. The outstanding master of the Nanga school was Ike-no-Taiga (1723 - 1776), and while little is known about Aiseki, it seems likely that he studied directly with Taiga. Aiseki's debt to Taiga can be seen in his modelling of trees and in the patterns of foliage. Aiseki is acknowledged as one of the three famous "seki" painters (so called after the last character of their names) of the early 19th century.

Calligraphy is always an important element of nanga paintings because the meaning of the characters can so often add an extra dimension to the whole painting. While the characters of "seiwa" mean "elevated conversation divorced from the mundane" and allude to the two literati men conversing learnedly in the landscape, the same word "seiwa" also means tranquility and the warm season of the year when the skies are clear. These extra connotations add depth and meaning to what is a skilfully painted yet stylistically idiosyncratic painting.

Bibliography (3)

Jackie Menzies, Art of the Brush - Chinese & Japanese painting calligraphy, Sydney, 1995, 20.

Jackie Menzies, The Australian Antique Collector, 'Recent Japanese Acquisitions at the Art Gallery of New South Wales', pg. 90-95, Chippendale, Jan 1981-Jun 1981, 92 (illus.).

Jackie Menzies, Three years on: a selection of acquisitions 1978-1981, 'Asian Art', pg. 85-103, Sydney, 1981, 96 (illus.). 19

Exhibition history (1)

Art of the brush, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 23 Sep 1995–12 Nov 1995

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