BD. Edmund Blunden

5. ‘Buddhist Paintings: Free Thoughts on the Exhibition at Ueno’. Japan Advertiser, 15 November 1925, pp. 6-7.

Blunden admits to an ‘undeniable fascination’ with the ‘ancient and acclaimed Buddhist paintings’ on display at the Imperial Museum in Ueno, Tokyo, but with reservations. ‘One need not be a profound inquirer into Oriental art in order to feel the atmosphere of these solemn presentations of belief and piety’, he writes, but ‘one must master and for the time being expel from the mind one’s definitions of art and existence.’ A theme common in Blunden’s writing about Japan is that comfort may be found in the familiar and well-remembered. Here the point is made in a series of comparisons to European literature and art. A painting of Kannon in the centre panel of a triptych is reminiscent of Milton’s ‘pensive Nun’; a drawing of a reclusive monk is ‘a kind of comment on Coleridge’s . . . “Kubla Khan”’; a likeness of Jion Daishi (632-682, Chin.: K’uei-chi, systematiser of the Buddhist sect known in Japanese as Hossôshû) shows ‘a man with a jowl somewhat Napoleonic, an eye with some of that meaning associated with Cardinal Wolsey’; and for ‘the ordinary spectator’ in ‘that spiritual treasure-house’, ‘visions of Rembrandt, Goya, even Rusdael gleam and give comfort and revival’. Reprinted in 42.





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