Bamboo in Moonlight. Japanese scroll painting by Gamo Rakan (1784-1866).



Bamboo in Moonlight

Gamo Rakan (1784-1866)  蒲生羅漢

Hanging scroll, ink on silk.

Inscription: Rakan  羅漢

Seal: Fuji Hyou  藤 豹


Scroll: 201 cm x 58 cm (79” x 23”)

Image: 137 cm x 45 cm (54” x 18”)

Price: USD 4,800

In this early 19th century work by Gamo Rakan a light ink wash applied to the silk background silhouettes the moon and suggests the atmosphere of early evening. Even though it is a literati subject, Rakan’s bamboo is quite realistic with a strong decorative style. The painting finds its inspiration from Chinese Ming dynasty painters who often used a single-tone, jet black stroke to emphasize the calligraphic nature of bamboo. In a different era, decorative would have been seen as somewhat unrefined. But increasingly in the Edo period, it was the hallmark of high style. The Japanese people, in particular the rising merchant class, had gradually become apathetic toward the traditional Sesshu and Kano schools of painting. Chinese professional and amateur painters living in the port of Nagasaki during the 18th century had a profound effect on Japanese painting and the freshness of their style and its decorative appeal contributed greatly to its popularity. Gamo Rakan’s teacher, Tani Buncho, spent a number of years in Nagasaki absorbing the direct transmission of the Chinese Ming style, which Rakan has been similarly inspired by in this painting of moonlight bamboo.   

Gamo Rakan (1784-1866) was befriended by the influential Daimyo Matsudaira Sadanobu of the Shirakawa Domain. The eclectic painter Tani Buncho served Sadanobu and took Rakan under his guidance. Rakan was one of a handful of students who helped Tani Buncho complete his copies of The Illustrated Legends of Ishiyama-dera, which were recently exhibited at the Suntory museum of art to much fanfare. In 2017 an exhibition of Gamo Rakan’s paintings, accompanied by a catalogue, was held at the Shirakawa city history museum. 

The painting and its mounting are in reasonable condition. There are some water stains at the bottom of the painting and the old silk brocade is a little dirty. Even so, the painting presents very well and is ready to be displayed and enjoyed.