rectangular format; many uneven vertical lines of loopy, connected text

Letter to Tomioka Tessai, late 19th century

Open, rounded forms are characteristic of Rengetsu's style. Chinese characters (kanji) and Japanese syllables (kana) flow rapidly, mostly without lifting the brush. A Buddhist nun, Rengetsu has become a popular figure in the West—she lived through tragedy, losing two husbands and a child, and supported herself by making pottery and calligraphy. This letter, written in a free, informal style, is addressed to her friend, the painter Tomioka Tessai (1836–1924), who was becoming the most successful literati painter in Kyoto at that time.

“I imagine that you are very busy, but please paint for me on these five sheets of paper. I’m really sorry for the small amount of reward you will receive but I hope you can grant my request. Please paint bamboo and pine on the marked sheets, and kinuta [fulling blocks, or mallets, for pounding cloth] on the two that are unmarked. I will visit before long and talk with you; that's all for now.
For Tomioka-sama, Rengetsu”

Letter to Tomioka Tessai
Artist Life
1791 - 1875
Accession Number
Curator Approved

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rectangular format; many uneven vertical lines of loopy, connected text