Detail View: The AMICA Library: Portrait of Ozora Buzaemon

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Creator Name: 
Watanabe, Kazan
Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Far East Asian; Japanese
Creator Role: 
Creator Dates/Places: 
1793 - 1841
Creator Name-CRT: 
Kazan Watanabe
Portrait of Ozora Buzaemon
Title Type: 
Full View
Creation Date: 
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
Image: 221.3cm x 117.6cm, Overall: 257.8cm x 139.7cm
AMICA Contributor: 
The Cleveland Museum of Art
Owner Location: 
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. Fund
Watanabe Kazan enjoyed the exalted social status of being born into the samurai class, yet he suffered from poverty during his entire lifetime. Indeed, nineteenth-century Japan was a period of social and economic turbulence, and government officials frequently found it impossible to support themselves on an annual stipend. Kazan's predicament was exacerbated by his talent and his intellect. As a young man he excelled in his studies of the Chinese and Japanese classics, and this traditional course propelled him into an examination of Western ideas, which were popular at the time but officially censored by the seclusionist military government. Stifled economically and intellectually by the status quo, Kazan pursued a career as a painter to support himselfbut also followed his interests in the outside world. Realizing Japan's weakened position in a rapidly modernizing world order, he openly proclaimed the country's need to secure its own interests while it entered the international arena of world affairs.Not embraced by the government, his views instead led to his arrest, exile, and eventual suicide. Kazan met Ozorabuzaemon in Edo where the young man from the distant provinces had traveled with his feudal lord in hope of becoming a sumo wrestler. His gigantic size and shy country manners attracted great curiosity in urban Edo. These features are recorded in Kazan's sketch portrait, done when he met Ozorabuzaemon in the summer of 1827 at a friend's house. In addition to the various statistics recorded in the inscription is an actual impression of the giant's handprint, testimony to the era's keen interest in the documentation of natural phenomena … la Western scientific methods currently in vogue in Japan. Kazan's portrayal, beginning with the preliminarydrawing lines, which are still visible, is poignantly sympathetic and intense. It uses the informality of the assembled paper sheets, sketchily brushed lines, and then transparent ink washes to convey the psychological fragility of the subject and, in a way, the artist's own condition. M.R.C.
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