Friday, June 09, 2006

Rosetsu's Elephant

Nagasawa Rosetsu
"Elephant and Children"
ink on paper c. 1794
Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

I recently wrote on the extraordinary ink on paper technique of the 18th century Japanese artist Nagasawa Rosetsu. Newly on view at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco is Rosetsu's "Elephant and Children". This painting combines a daring composition with rich and varied brush techniques. The Asian Art Museum has determined that Rosetsu "depicted the elephant's huge body, large ears, trunk, and legs with minimal strokes using a flat brush, afterward using a round brush quickly but carefully to fill in details such as the children."

Rosetsu's paintings are witty, at times charming, but usually contain a hint of mystery or even dread. Rosetsu "is said to have had a volatile temperament, and his life ended under mysterious circumstances, possibly murder or suicide."

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