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Ink painting of lotus flowers with three vertical columns of calligraphy at left edge of the image.

This ink painting shows decaying lotus flowers with three vertical columns of calligraphy at the far-left edge of the image.

Gallery Text

Seedpods hang from the tips of frail, bent stems in this wildly brushed painting by the female artist Okuhara Seiko. Sensationalized during her lifetime for cropping her hair and wearing male clothing, Seiko’s Chinese-style ink paintings were hugely popular in the years immediately following the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Although her uninhibited style seems to speak to a modern individualistic sensibility, Seiko rooted her practice in the study of historical Chinese models. She underlines her identity as a scholar-recluse by inscribing a Chinese poem about the pleasures of drifting in a boat among lotuses under a moonlit sky. Her erratic wet-dry brushstrokes capture the messy decay of the autumnal lotuses, surrounding the viewer so that she, too, is among the stems.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Okuhara Seiko 奥原晴湖, Japanese (1837 - 1913)
Lotus in Autumn
Work Type
hanging scroll, painting
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan
Meiji era, 1868-1912
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Hanging scroll; ink on paper
painting proper: H. 178.3 × W. 97 cm (70 3/16 × 38 3/16 in.)
overall mounting, including roller ends and suspension cord: H. 240 × W. 103.2 cm (94 1/2 × 40 5/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • signature: 晴湖作於墨吐烟雲樓時維皇朝明治壬申龝中西暦千八百七十二季第九月中澣為不貪高臺貴姓清鑑 [Humbly painted by Seiko in the Hall of Ink-Spat Mist and Clouds, autumn of the stem year Jinshin (mizunoe- saru; 1872), during the ninth month of the year 1872 by the Western calendar, and offered for consideration to he who covets neither fame nor reputation]
  • seal: top left; ovoid, relief: 眼大月小 [Eyes immense, moon diminutive]
  • seal: mid-left upper; rectangular, intaglio: 奪山川之秀 貴華柳之娟 [Capture the beauty of mountains and rivers; cherish the grace of flowers and willows]
  • seal: mid-left middle; rectangular, relief: 出新意於法度之中 寄妙理於豪放之外 [Generating novelty within the rules, investing marvels beyond the untrammeled]
  • seal: mid-left lower; rectangular, intaglio: 墨吐烟雲處詩書畫印 [Poetry, Calligraphy, and Painting of the Hall of Ink-Spat Mist and Clouds]
  • seal: lower right; rectangular, intaglio: 蝙蝠倒懸直行 [Bats hang upside down but fly straight]
  • inscription: Chinese poem by Seiko
    Happily drifting in my little boat,
    I delay going home.
    The moon hangs in a sky perfumed by the lotus for miles around.
    [Translation cited from Edo-Tōkyō Hakubutsukan, Miho Museum, and Tottori Kenritsu Hakubutsukan, eds., Edo kaiga no kiseki: Fainbāgu Korekushon ten (Tokyo: Yomiuri Shinbunsha, 2013), cat. 41, p. 207.]

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Promised gift of Robert S. and Betsy G. Feinberg
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Publication History

  • Kissaten Seiko (Tokyo, Japan, 1929)
  • The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection, exh. cat., Yomiuri Shinbunsha (Tokyo, 2013), p. 101, cat. 41
  • Musée Cernuschi, Le Japon au fil des saisons: Collection Robert et Betsy Feinberg, exh. cat., Paris-Musées (Paris, 2014), pp. 136-137
  • Rachel Saunders, "Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection", Orientations, Orientations Magazine (Hong Kong, January/February 2020), vol. 51, no. 1, pp. 20-33, p. 32, fig. 12
  • Rachel Saunders and Yukio Lippit, Painting Edo: Selections from the Feinberg Collection of Japanese Art, exh. cat. (Cambridge, MA, 2020), p. 96, fig. 84

Exhibition History

  • Through the Seasons: Japanese Art in Nature, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, 06/07/1999 - 10/18/1999
  • The Flowering of Edo Period Painting: Japanese Masterworks from the Feinberg Collection, Tokyo Metropolitan Edo-Tokyo Museum, 05/21/2013 - 07/15/2013; Miho Museum, 07/20/2013 - 08/18/2013; Tottori Prefectural Museum, 10/05/2013 - 11/10/2013
  • 32Q: 2600 East Asian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 12/01/2016 - 06/09/2017; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/29/2021 - 07/17/2022
  • Painting Edo: Japanese Art from the Feinberg Collection, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 02/14/2020 - 06/06/2021

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at