Keisai Eisen and View of Shogetsu Pond: ukiyo-e and pure bliss
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Keisai Eisen was a complex individual because he could compose stunning images of tranquility but private matters were more complex and he apparently owned a brothel and was a heavy drinker. However, the image of the View of Shogetsu Pond is based on bliss and the wonders of nature in all its simplicity and richness.
The artistic work of Keisai Eisen which went into creating the View of Shogetsu Pond is truly stunning. This applies to nature and humanity being together in oneness and everything looks in perfect order.
It could be that Keisai Eisen was a real heavy drinker or that he used wit when describing himself so negatively. After all, he was a writer and a sublime artist therefore we can only take at face value when he implied that he was “…a hard-drinking, rather dissolute artist.”
However, the residence of the brothel did exist in Nezu, Tokyo, and it was called Wakatakeya. This would indicate an element of truth about aspects of his negative statement about himself.
Therefore, were stunning images like the View of Shogetsu Pond a mirage to how he desired to see the world? Alternatively, it could be that this piece of work had little value when it came to the real meaning and like all works of art, the individual can read different things into the real meaning and come up with countless theories.
The quaint bridge and houses in the background looks like a place of safety and peace. Mountains in the distance also seem like guardians and being ready to pounce on any future calamity.
This world was very different to the real world of Keisai Eisen and the brothel he owned called Wakatakeya. It matters not that his brothel burnt down because of misfortune. The fact is that he was involved in ungentlemanly behavior but this man of letters was very complex.
However, even if he was involved in brothels does this add to the beauty of the View of Shogetsu Pond by Keisai Eisen or does it distract from the harmonic image he created?