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33. Tomioka Tessai (1837-1924)
Sö jin san ka zu - sweeping dust in a cave in the mountains
Signed: Tetsugai Tonjin sha
Seals: unread
Technique: colours on paper 146,3 x 53
Date: 5th month of 1882
Mounting: brown damask
ivory rollers, 217 x 66,9
Box: double box authorized in 1963 by Seitai (a member of the Society for Tessai Research)
Condition: lightly soiled at the top, otherwise fine

The inscription is a quote from Mediative moments during my stay in the mountains (Yan xi jou shi ) by Chen Jiru (1556-1639) reads:
Close the door, burn some insenceand happiness is perfect.
When one does not feel happiness, one can try something else to think of.
To feel more happiness, one can read a little.

Former collection of the Meguro Gajoen
Meguro Gojoen was founded in 1931 and a refuge for artists during World War II.
‘Several items from the collection were sold when part of the old building was pulled down'.

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 (# 29, 30, 54-56) 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 (# 34).

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.

Kato 1998
Roberts p. 181
Araki pp. 2754-2755
Aburai pp. 266-267
Morioka & Berry ‘99 pp. 116-121
Morioka & Berry ‘08 p. 305-06