Nagasawa Rosetsu (長沢芦雪)

Rosetsu NAGASAWA (長沢芦雪) (the date of birth unknown, 1754- July 10, 1799) was a painter in the Edo period. He was a senior disciple of Okyo MARUYAMA. His name is also spelt as 蘆雪 (Rosetsu). His other names included Masakatsu and Gyo. His azana (Chinese courtesy name used in place of given name in formal situations; Japanese scholars and literati adopted this custom) were Hyokei and Inkyo. He was commonly called Kazue. Besides Rosetsu, he used other noms de plume like Ushu Ryoja or Ushu. He was born in present Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City.


It is unclear even when Rosetsu became Okyo's disciple since his career is much less documented than those of great artists in his times. As will be mentioned below, however, there remains a document in which Rosetsu told of his father, Hikozaemon UESUGI when he stayed in Nanki.

Apparently, Rosetsu was bold, cheerful in a sense, but also arrogant. That is probably why there is a groundless gossip or a bad publicity that 'he was later expelled by Okyo' in addition to many anecdotes that recount his perverse behaviors. One of such typical anecdotes is about his death. Some say he was murdered by poisoning but others say he killed himself. To say the least, his death was unusual although we do not know what in fact happened.

His drawings are free-spirited and eccentric just like what his character is said to have been. He is described as 'an eccentric painter,' together with his contemporaries like Shohaku SOGA and Jakuchu ITO (by Nobuo TSUJI).
These painters are often grouped together as 'the Eccentric School.'
Considerably diverging from his master Okyo's style by using the extreme contrast between black and white, big and small, or compositions that utterly ignore realism, Rosetsu's eccentric tendency manifests itself in the interior mural paintings which he made in Nanki. While his style was essentially bright and gallant, he occasionally produced grotesque and gruesome drawings like "Yamanba" (A Mountain Witch) in his later years.

From 1786 to 1787 he composed many interior mural paintings during his stay in Nanki. Currently, a total of 180 interior mural paintings by Rosetsu remains in Muryo-ji Temple in Kushimoto, Joju-ji Temple in Koza, and Sodo-ji Temple in Tonda. Okyo-Rosetsu Gallery has been established in Muryo-ji Temple.

Well-known Works
"Tora-zu" (A Tiger) (important cultural property) Muryo-ji Temple, Kushimoto Okyo Rosetsu Gallery (Kushimoto-cho, Wakayama Prefecture)
"Ryu-zu" (A Dragon) (important cultural property) Muryo-ji Temple, Kushimoto Okyo Rosetsu Gallery (Kushimoto-cho, Wakayama Prefecture)
"Gun-jaku-zu Fusuma" (A Flock of Sparrows on Sliding Doors" (important cultural property) Joju-ji Temple (Koza-cho, Wakayama Prefecture)
"Gun-en-zu Byobu" (A Troop of Monkeys on a Folding Screen) (important cultural property) Sodo-ji Temple (Shirahama-cho, Wakayama Prefecture)
"Shihon Suiboku Kanzan Jittoku-zu" (Kanzan and Jittoku, ink on paper)(important cultural property) Kozan-ji temple (Tanabe City, Wakayama Prefecture)
"Saru no Ma" (Monkey Room) (important cultural property) Daijo-ji Temple (Kami-cho, Hyogo Prefecture)
"Yamanba-zu" (A Mountain Witch) (important cultural property) Itsukushima-jinja Shrine (Hatsukaichi City, Hiroshima Prefecture)
"Miyajima Hakkei-zu" (Eight Famous Views of Miyajima) (held by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, important cultural property)
"Getsuya Sansui-zu" (Landscape of a Moonlit Night) (important arts) Egawa Museum of Art (Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture)

Private Collection

Kushimoto Okyo Rosetsu Gallery

[Original Japanese]