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Sesson Shukei: A Zen Monk-Painter in Medieval Japan

University of Chicago Press


An exploration of how war, uncertainty, and displacement inspired one of Japan’s greatest painters.

Sesson Shūkei (ca. 1492–ca. 1577) stands out as an anomaly in the history of Japanese art. Inspired by the wild landscape of the eastern regions of Japan, Sesson led a peripatetic existence caused by a lifetime of experiencing warfare and upheaval—yet he created some of the most visually striking images in the history of Japanese ink painting. Drawing on new art historical and sociological insights into Japan’s sixteenth century, this book considers how war, uncertainty, and displacement can spawn untamed creativity. Three essays by leading scholars in the field of Japanese art explore Sesson Shūkei’s unique life and unconventional painting style, as well as how scholarly perceptions of the artist have changed over time. Other entries highlight major works by Sesson as well as those by other artists before, during, and after his time. This publication explores new ways of understanding and interpreting one of Japan’s greatest painters and the world that shaped him.

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