1.Gyokudô's Life

Urakami Gyokudô|1745–1820

Gyokudô was born the son of a samurai in service to the Ikeda family of the Bitchû Kamogata subsidiary clan of the Bizen Okayama clan. He was born in the subsidiary clan residence near Okayama Castle (present-day Tenjin-chô, Kita ward, Okayama city). At the age of 16, Gyokudô had his first audience with the Kamogata clan lord Ikeda Masaka, and two months later, became one of Masaka’s close aides. While Gyokudô enjoyed a deep trust relationship with Masaka, just one year older than Gyokudô, unfortunately Masaka died of illness at the age of 25. Overcoming his grief at his lord’s death, Gyokudô dedicated himself to working for the clan. His efforts were rewarded, and by his 30s, he was given a succession of high-level appointments that made him one of the elite members of his clan.
  While working in clan administration, Gyokudô also revealed his deep interest in such academic subjects as Confucianism, medicine and pharmacology, along with such cultural pursuits as poetry composition and music, particularly the qin (seven-stringed zither). He particularly poured his energies into the qin, not only performing on the instrument but also composing musical pieces for it and actually designing his own instruments. It is thought today that Gyokudô did not take up painting fully until he was in his 40s. Even though he eventually developed his own unique painting style and realm, throughout his life Gyokudô never considered himself to be a professional painter.
  After renouncing his clan, Gyokudô then traveled through various domains. From Kinosaki he went to Osaka and on to Edo, where he parted from Shunkin. He continued north to Aizu, where his second son Shûkin entered service to the Aizu clan. Gyokudô traveled on from Aizu to Suwa, Kyoto and other towns. Today we do not have a detailed record of how Gyokudô spent the latter half of his 50s, but at age 60 he appeared in Osaka, and from then on he enjoyed life with his friends who were similarly interested in the arts and letters, all as he continued his travels throughout the country.
  At the age of 67 he moved in with Shunkin and his family then living in Kyoto. With the support of Shunkin he spent his later years enjoying elegant pastimes, such as playing the qin, painting pictures, writing calligraphy and composing poems, as well as drinking with his friends. Gyokudô died in 1820 at the age of 76, and was buried at Honnôji temple in Kyoto where he rests for eternity with his son Shunkin.


Urakami Gyokudô
High Mountains, Long Rivers
Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art
177.7×95.0 cm
Thought to have been painted in Gyokudô’s late 60s. Painted upon a request from his friend, the priest Unge Shônin.


Urakami Gyokudô
The Analects of Confucius, Mengzi,
The Doctrine of the Mean
Handwritten copy

1770–72 Okayama Prefectural Museum
27.0×19.0 cm
Written by Gyokudô in his late 20s while staying at the Kamogata domain’s Edo residence.


Urakami Gyokudô
Seven-String Qin by Gyokudô
1786 Masamune Bunko
Length: 108.0 cm
Thought to be the oldest extant example of the many seven-stringed qin designed by Gyokudô.


Urakami Gyokudô
Snow Comes to a Southern Village
Okayama Prefectural Museum
50.0×47.2 cm
Painted in Gyokudô’s early 40s. Painted upon a request from Kômoto Ichia, a wealthy Okayama merchant.


Short Sword Owned
by Urakami Gyokudô [A] 21.2cm
Medicines and Writing Equipment Owned
by Gyokudô [B]

Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art
(Ex-Urakami Family Collection)
Gyokudô was knowledgable about medicine and pharmacopia from his Okayama period. Likely these skills were useful in his travels after renouncing his Okayama clan status.


Urakami Gyokudô
Mountains Dyed Scarlet
Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art (Kimura Teizô Collection)
36.5×65.5 cm
Gyokudô's inscription asks that the viewer makes allowances for the fact that he was drunk when he painted this work.


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