Nakahara Nantembo, (1839-1925)

marching monks
(unsui takuhatsu)

pair of hanging scrolls, ink and color on paper; both signed Hachijugo (85 year old) Nantembo hitsu with two seals, Hakugankutsu, and Toshu, and sealed again at upper right corner, Hachijugo-ou Nantembo, and at lower right and left, Gyoun Ryosui, ca. 1923

painting: 53 by 13 1/4 in., 134.5 by 33.5 cm
overall: 78 1/2 by 17 3/8 in., 199.5 by 44 cm

The influential Zen master Nantembo, born Tojyu Zanchu to a samurai family, acquired his nickname in reference to his large staff ('bo') of a type of bamboo ('nanten') which he apparently brandished as a weapon of intimidation as well as using it directly upon trainees. Known for his rigorous training and adherence to strict Zen principles, Nantembo developed a highly regarded individualistic Zen painting style.

There are a number of Nantembo works included in the Manyo'an [Gitter-Yelen] Collection, illustrated in the 2000 exhibition catalogue, Zenga-The Return from America: Zenga from the Gitter-Yelen Collection. The exhibition curator Yamashita Yuji compares Nantembo's work to that of Hakuin Ekaku (1685-1768, considered the founder of Zenga painting): "Nantembo's individualistic painting and calligraphy were the first works after Hakuin to attain an individuality, albeit one that differed from that of Hakuin. They are a mixture of ineffable spirit and unexpected humor." (p. 146). Yamashita describes a similar pair of paintings of marching monks as "Nantembo's finest masterpiece of character design" (cat. no. 78, pp. 156-157).

Stephen Addiss, The Art of Zen: Paintings and Calligraphy by Japanese Monks 1600-1925, Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1989, p. 200, no. 113 (Manyo'an Collection/Gitter-Yelen example)
Yoko Woodson, Zen: Painting and Calligraphy, Asian Art Museum, 2001, p. 68, cat. no. 51 (Gitter-Yelen example)
Yuji Yamashita, Zenga-The Return from America: Zenga from the Gitter-Yelen Collection, Asano Laboratories, Inc., 2000, pp. 146-174



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site last updated
December 1, 2022

Scholten Japanese Art
145 West 58th Street, suite 6D
New York, New York 10019
ph: (212) 585-0474
fx: (212) 585-0475