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8 / Writing

Poems with Floral Decoration
Poems with Floral Decoration
Artist / Origin Kojima Soshin (Japanese, 1580–ca. 1656)
Region: East Asia
Date Edo period, 1652
Material Handscroll; ink and color on gold-decorated paper
Dimensions H: 12 ½ in. (31.7 cm.), W: 25 ft. (765.6 cm.)
Location Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
Credit Courtesy of the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

expert perspective

Yoshiaki ShimizuProfessor of Art and Archeology, Princeton University

Additional Resources

Addiss, Stephen. 77 Dances: Japanese Calligraphy by Poets, Monks, and Scholars, 1568–1868. Boston: Weatherhill, 2006.

Department of Asian Art. “Rinpa Painting Style.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Web site. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/rinp/hd_rinp.htm (October 2003).

Mason, Penelope. History of Japanese Art. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2004.

Poems with Floral Decoration, F1976.8.” In Collections. Freer and Sackler Galleries Web site. http://www.asia.si.edu/collections.

Stanley-Baker, Joan. Japanese Art, rev. and expanded ed. London: Thames & Hudson, 2000.

Poems with Floral Decoration

» Kojima Soshin (Japanese, 1580–ca. 1656)

In the early seventeenth century, Japan closed its doors to the outside world, initiating a period of isolationism that would last over two hundred and fifty years.

During the Tokugawa or Edo period, as it is known, many artists showed a renewed interest in traditional art forms and styles. One of the most influential artists of this period was Hon’ami Koetsu in Kyoto, who helped to develop a style of scroll calligraphy and decoration known as Rinpa. The inspiration for Rinpa was found in the aristocratic arts of the Heian period (794–1185), when reduced contact with China led to specifically Japanese developments in art and culture. Both the influence of Heian calligraphy and nature motifs can be found in Koetsu’s work.

The scroll seen here, created by Hon’ami Koetsu’s student Kojima Soshin, is an excellent example of Rinpa style. The band of gold across the top of the scroll evokes a kind of atmospheric horizon, while the more complex, lower gold band serves almost as a landscape, providing a ground to set off several clusters of small, decorative flowers. Kojima has carefully woven a series of poems through the floral areas, creating a sophisticated rhythm in the overall design of the composition. Elongated brushstrokes emphasize the vertical lines of the poems in counterpoint to the horizontal scroll and gold fields. The shifting between thick and thin lines in Kojima’s calligraphy is a technique he would have learned from his master Koetsu.

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