Kita Genki (act. 1664-1698).
Ink and colour on paper,118.1×48.9cm.
Little is known of the artist Kita Genki who lived in Nagasaki and painted fine portraits of the Obaku Zen monks who had recently arrived from China. Genki clearly had learned certain that may have alternately derived from Western painting. The sense of volume achieved by this technique was not seen in contemporary Japanese portraits and was one of the many cultural influences brought over by Obaku monks.
Altthough Obaku Zen was syncretic,adapting elements from Pure Land Buddhism,the sect had an initial success in Japan,due in part to the impressive personalities of its founders, Ingen,Mokuan and Sokuhi. These monks, Known as ‘ three Brushes of Obaku’,were execeptional calligraphers, poets and scholars. Sokuhi(1616-1671) had and especially powerful brushwork style, emphasizing strokes that were always graceful and well balanced.
Becoming a monk at the age of 18, Sokuhi achieved enlightenment under Ingen in 1651 in his native Fukien province. Ingen emigrated to Japan in 1654, and summoned Sokuhi there years thereafter. Sokuhi presided over the Sōfukuji temple in Nagasaki for six years, then spent oneyear in Mampukuji, the central Obaku temple. He then journeyed back towards Nagasaki in order to return to China, but was persuaded by the Daimyō(lord) of Kokura to stay and found the temple Fukushūji . He eventually retired to Sōfukuji. Obaku Senpo(1636-1705)emigrated to Japan in 1657,receiving his seal of enlightenment from Sokuhi in 1665 and became Abbot of Mampukuji and sixth Obaku patriach in 1696.
This extremely rare double portrait of Sokuhi his follwer Senpo shows the two monks in a landscape setting. The deer and pine are symbols of natural longevity. The elegant and detailed style of the painting displays how well Kita Genki had mastered the Ming Chinese style. He introduced techniques of brushwork into Japan that were to influence much later painting of the Edo period.