Okumura Masanobu
Night Rain in Karasaki
c. 1730

Signed: Nihon gakō Okumura Masanobu shōhitsu (“from the genuine brush of the Japanese artist Okumura Masanobu”) hosoban, 31.5 x 15.6 cm; beni-e with metallic pigments

Sheet 1 from “Eight Views of Ōmi” This highly atmospheric print is one of the first landscapes in the art of woodblock printing. On the right there is a poem, in a classical Chinese verse form, praising different views of Lake Biwa during the course of the day. Next to it are the artist’s own variations on the original waka poem: “In the night rain its green fades/still in the evening breeze/stands the famous pine tree/of Karasaki.”

Geyger inv.no.16404 (KG p.58 / KGE p.68)

The upper and lower parts of the picture are hidden behind bands of clouds. The theme is related in the two poems next to the cartouche containing the title. First there is a poem in Chinese form, a four-line poem (qi jue), each line consisting of seven characters respectively. But its author was not Chinese; he was probably Japanese. Next to this, Masanobu added a slightly altered version of the famous poem about the night rain of Karasaki:

Yoru no ame ni
Its greenness paling in the night rain

ao wo yururite
serene in the evening breeze

yukaze ni mada taru
stands the famous pine tree

Karasaki no matsu.
of Karasaki.

The Chinese poem describes the view of the lake which the observer is offered at different times of day: the morning view of the lake’s gently rippling, glittering surface; then in the evening the threatening clouds suspended over the filigree-like mountain villages; at night, the lively scene of the fishermen who, like the pine tree, must withstand wind and weather.
At the central point of the picture, the large pine tree of Karasaki soars up next to a little Shintō shrine, dedicated to the kami(god) of the tree.
A fisherman in a mino robe strides past the torii, a net over his shoulders, towards the promontory. To the right, two others in a boat go about their business. In the foreground to the left, another boat is anchored. On the lake, boats are returning home, with filled sails billowing. In the background the roofs of a village are hidden behind trees on the shore. Heavy rain is falling, indicated by parallel lines.
Masanobu’s landscape compositions are more organic than those of Shigenaga in the series published by the publishing house Edo-ya, which is clearly more „archaic“ and more indebted to the popular illustrations of the 17th c. stemming from the Tosa School. The leaf was originally in the Brettschneider Collection, passed on to the Stoclet Collection, and then to the Kaempfer Collection.
J.WU/S. Bartels-Wu/G.A.