Setting Out for Kawachi

School of Tawaraya Sōtatsu (Japanese)

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Hiding in the reeds, his fan shielding his face, a man peers at an elegantly dressed woman seated on a veranda. They are childhood friends who married, but their life was not prosperous, and he is now making frequent visits to the home of a new wife and a better life in a neighboring province. His suspicions are aroused since his first wife does not seem to show adequate sadness at his departure. One day he pretends to leave but hides to spy on her instead. She adorns herself, goes out to the veranda, and then recites a poem expressing her concern for his safety on his journey. Deeply touched, he renews his love for her and ceases his trips to Kawachi.

Traveling alone in the dead of night / Oh would that he could safely cross / that mountain (Mt. Tatsuta) which recalls the white-capped waves of a wind-blown sea.

Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

This painting refers to a poem from the 10th-century Tales of Ise, one of Japan’s most beloved literary works. Hiding in the reeds, a man peers at an elegantly dressed woman seated on a veranda. They are childhood friends who married, but their life was not prosperous, and the husband now frequently visits a second wife—and a better life—in neighboring Kawachi province. His suspicions aroused by his wife’s apparent indifference to his departures, one day he pretends to leave but spies on her instead. Seated on the veranda, she recites a poem expressing her concern for his safety. Deeply touched, he finds his love for her reborn, and he ceases his trips to Kawachi.

Tawaraya Sotatsu derived his motifs from classical painting and literature. A genius of design, he constructed uncluttered abstract settings with strong diagonal components and bright pigments highlighted with gold and silver leaf. A delicate sense of restraint makes his works dynamic, rich, and colorful without being overpowering or gaudy. Later artists who transmitted Sotatsu’s painting methods came to be known collectively as the Rin School, or Rinpa.

Court aristocrats patronized Sotatsu, as did wealthy townspeople who provided services or products to the court, or whose own aesthetic pursuits led them to identify with the tastes of the nobility.

“Is he journeying
alone in the dead of night
across that mountain
rising when the tempest blows?”

—From Tales of Ise, chapter 23, 10th century

(Leighton Longhi Far Eastern Art, New York, New York) through Alan J. and Ann Strassman, Wellesley, Massachusetts, purchased by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 2000.

Object Information

artist
School of Tawaraya Sōtatsu (Japanese)
period
Edo
creation date
early 1600s
materials
ink, color and gold on paper
dimensions
9-7/16 x 8-1/8 in. (image)
52-3/4 x 18-1/2 in. (mounted)
series
Tales of Ise, chapter 23
accession number
2000.61
credit line
Gift of the Alliance of the Indianapolis Museum of Art
copyright
Public Domain
collection
Asian Art
colors

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