Shiokawa Bunrin, Moon over Lake Biwa, a hanging scroll painting

Late Edo - early Meiji era, 19th century AD

An artist of night views

Bunrin uses only black ink to depict this night-time view of Lake Biwa and the surrounding mountains under the gleam of a full moon. This was not the approach of traditional ink painting, but the most effective way for the artist to describe the silhouetted features of the landscape. He takes advantage of the lustre of the painting's silk support, and the delicacy with which the moon's rays reflect off the hilltops and the water gives a novel touch to the traditional techniques of the Kyoto Shijō school.

Bunrin (1808-77) was very interested in the effects of light, and particularly night-time light: lamplight, moonlight and even fireflies. Thus many of his works feature the moon, if only as the sheen on a body of water. This interest, which is also seen first perhaps in the work of Yosa Buson (1716-83), is evidence of a gradually maturing modern sensibility in the world of Kyoto painting that predates the introduction of Western naturalistic techniques.

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More information


I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan-2, vol. 3 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1993)

E. Conant (ed.), Nihonga: transcending the past (The St Louis Art Museum, 1995)


Height: 372.000 mm
Width: 1010.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JA JP 2559 (1881.12-10.02728)


William Anderson Collection


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