Black robe, white mistArt of the Japanese Buddhist nun Rengetsu
8 September 2007 – 27 January 2008
Otagaki Rengetsu & Kishi Chikudo 'A pity to lay down' hanging scroll [kakemono] 1867 calligraphy, painting National Gallery of Victoria. Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Mr S Baillieu Myer AC, Founder Benefactor more detail
Rengetsu created collaborative works of art, gassaku, with painters including Mori Kansai, Kishi Chikudo and Murase Soseki. Some of her most successful collaborative works were created with close friends Tomioka Tessai and Wada Gozan, also known as Gesshin (Moon Mind). Often playful in spirit, such works stem from a tradition of paintings created by two or more artists to mark special occasions and celebrate friendships. In another application of gassaku, Rengetsu and Gesshin created 1000 images of the bodhisattva Kannon, the Buddhist embodiment of compassion, to support victims of flood.
Rengetsu sometimes commissioned Tessai to paint particular subjects to complement her poems. Similarly, collaborating with potters including Kuroda Koryo and Isso enabled her to keep up with demand for her ceramics, and was more commercial than the true gassaku. Both potters emulated Rengetsu’s style. Kuroda, who became known as Rengetsu II, even had the nun’s permission to sign her name on his work and continued to do so after her death. Unconcerned with money beyond her basic needs, Rengetsu was also known to have helped make the works of others more saleable by inscribing them with her poems.
Otagaki Rengetsu or Kuroda Koryo 'Let us consider our aging' teapot [kyusu] 1850s glazed stoneware, incised calligraphy Collection of the National Gallery of Australia more detail
The collaborative scroll paintings of Otagaki Rengetsu are the subject of Sayumi Takahashi’s essay, the final chapter of Black robe, white mist: Art of the Japanese Buddhist nun Rengetsu.
Black Robe, white mist was on show at the National Gallery of Australia 8 September 2007 – 27 January 2008