Detail View: The AMICA Library: Water-Moon Kannon

AMICA ID: 
CMA_.1985.110
AMICA Library Year: 
1998
Object Type: 
Paintings
Creator Name: 
Gakuo
Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Far East Asian; Japanese
Creator Role: 
artist
Creator Dates/Places: 
1793 - 1841
Gender: 
M
Creator Name-CRT: 
Gakuo
Title: 
Water-Moon Kannon
Title Type: 
Primary
View: 
Full View
Creation Date: 
late 15th-early 16th Century
Creation Start Date: 
1466
Creation End Date: 
1533
Materials and Techniques: 
hanging scroll; ink on paper
Dimensions: 
Overall: 104.5cm x 44cm
AMICA Contributor: 
The Cleveland Museum of Art
Owner Location: 
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
ID Number: 
1985.110
Credit Line: 
John L. Severance Fund
Rights: 
Context: 
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Kannon in Japanese) is among the most popular Buddhist deities in Japan. By at least the twelfth century, painted images of this merciful figure surrounded by water, lush vegetation, and bamboo were being imported from the continent and also painted within the compounds of Japan's own monastic institutions. While initially such imagery emerged from literary descriptions in important religious texts extolling the virtues of Kannon, by the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in Japan the deity depicted became more physically attractive and its presentation more varied. Shedding the guise of "foreignness" (Chinese or Korean), the white-robed manifestation of Kannon became the primary figural subject of medieval Zen painting. The relaxed swaying posture of Kannon lends an air of informality to this picture, enhancing the deity's appeal. The casual brushwork describing rocks, streambank, and water ripples accentuates this mood. Binding the composition together is a carefully orchestrated painting of subtly toned ink washes suffusing the atmosphere and illuminating the face and upper torso of the figure with the arc of the large halo. The composition and its constituent elements?especially the bamboo grove and the artist's clear delight in executing quick, almost rough, brushstrokes? mark a highly individualistic departure from normal representations of the time. Still, the fundamental Zen enigma remains accessible for pondering: which is more "real," the moon or its reflection? In the quest for spiritual awakening, Japan's medieval Zen monasteries embraced the use of paintings such as this white-robed Kannon as ceremonial objects and aids in instruction. Fresh interpretations of traditional Zen subjects were encouraged and they varied as widely as individual paths to enlightenment. M.R.C.
Related Image Identifier Link: 
CMA_.1985.110.tif