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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Kawamura Bunpō 河村文鳳, Japanese (1779 - 1821)
Bunpō gafu sanben (Model Sketches by Bunpō vol.3)
Other Titles
Original Language Title: 文鳳画譜 三遍
Work Type
Edo period, 1615-1868
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Woodblock printed book; ink and light color on paper
Woodblock print
26.4 × 18 cm (10 3/8 × 7 1/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: 林正忠
[Hayashi Tadamasa, Tokyo and Paris, (b.1853- d.1906)], sold; to Henry Rivière, Paris ( b.1864- d.1951). [Israel Goldman Japanese Prints, London, (by 2014], sold; to Private Collection, Arlington, MA, 2014.

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Anonymous loan
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Volume three of a set of three; yellow covers with burnished design of clouds. Finely printed in ink and light colors, Bunpō’s illustrated books deliver visual anthologies of the idealized world of the Chinese scholar-gentleman in his signature genial style. Bunpō’s Chinese-style ink landscapes are meant as much for contemplation by the armchair literatus as for the reference of those actually deploying their brush and ink stones, while he conveys the humanity of his figures in a few economic brushstrokes, laden with as much wry commentarial humor as ink. Bunpō’s woodblock printed books made icons of Sinophile literati culture available for purchase by the aspiring Japanese scholar-gentleman.

The book in question, Bunpō gafu, was published in three volumes between 1807 and 1813 and represents a landmark in Bunpō’s career. The publisher of volume one promised a full series of ten volumes. Although ultimately only three volumes were produced, together they present almost one hundred images demonstrating Bunpō’s mastery of the three major genres of literati painting: landscapes, figures, and birds and flowers. The printing in ink and light colors shares the restricted palette of his paintings, and captures the combination of “the rough and the refined” that critics described as the hallmark of his brushwork. Collectively, the three volumes present the numerous elements and types that populate his paintings as images in their own right. The catalog of lively Sinophilic images notably includes an unusual series of “portraits” of the many scholar-gentleman participants of the touchstone literati gathering, the poetry party held at the Orchid Pavilion by the legendary Chinese calligrapher, Wang Xizhi in the year 353. Bunpō also adds a humorous parenthetical visual commentary to the many close studies of conventional literati painting subjects including bamboo, inebriated sages, and mountain landscapes, by the inclusion of a series of three images depicting a crowded contemporary Kyoto salon hang, from preparation though installation, to the arrival of the many chattering spectators who have clearly come as much to be looked at as to view the paintings on display.

Tinios, Ellis. Kawamura Bumpō: Artist of Two Worlds. Leeds: The University Gallery Leeds, 2004
Exhibition History

32Q: 2600 East Asian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 12/01/2016 - 06/09/2017

Related Works

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