Ink and colour on paper, a fan painting. Signed Zeshin, red seal Shin. ø 472 mm.
In Japan the gourd (hyotan) is a symbol of longevity.
The son of a skilled wood carver, Zeshin began his prolific and versatile career at eleven as an apprentice to a lacquer craftsman, but shortly afterwards, in 1822, he began his training as a painter under the tutelage of Suzuki Nanrei. Soon he moved to Kyoto, where he studied with the Shij? artist Okamoto Toyohiko. Some years later he settled in Edo. Apart from being a skilled lacquerer, printmaker and painter, Zeshin also wrote haiku and practized the tea ceremony. As a lacquerer, Zeshin distinguished himself by introducing several innovations both in technique and composition. In the 1830’s he started experimenting to develop a method which made it possible to apply lacquer on flexible material such as paper and silk, resulting in his famous lacquer paintings or urushi-e, most of which were produced in his later years. Zeshin participated as official representative of Japan in International exhibitions in Vienna in 1875, in Philadelphia in 1876 and in Paris. He became a court painter in 1890.