Soga Shohaku ( Japanese, 1730 - 1781 )

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General Description

The pair of hanging scrolls representing Kanzan [1970.28] and Jittoku [1970.29] are examples of the condensed style found in black and white ink painting. The two men were a pair of mad monks who spoke a private language to each other while ignoring the everyday world. The Zen rejection of logic and tradition is symbolized by Jittoku's broom, which sweeps away reasoning, and Kanzan's blank scroll, which is empty of scriptures. In a few bold sweeps of the brush, the pair of cosmic clowns, grotesque and yet inspired, are delineated as sacred figures. They are complements of each other, like the two halves of a sphere. The artist, Soga Shohaku, was himself a member of a Zen family, whose traditions he has here distilled.

Excerpt from

  • Anne R. Bromberg, Dallas Museum of Art: Selected Works (Dallas, TX: Dallas Museum of Art, 1983), 90.

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