Sesshu Toyo (1420-1506) is considered by many to be one of the greatest masters of the Japanese monochrome ink painting technique called suiboku (ink-and-water).He studied under the renowned landscape painter and Zen priest, Shubun, in Kyoto during the Muromachi era. Like most of Sesshu’s contemporaries he began by primarily painting traditional Chinese landscapes in the popular Chinese technique, “Ch’an”.
This style was widely popular and developed quickly through the teachings of Chinese monks. Even in its throes of isolationisim, Japan allowed Zen monks from the mainland to travel freely while teaching their spirituality and the refinements that were expected with the title.
During a 1467 trip to China, Sesshu developed his own stylistic form of monochrome painting driven from his love of nature and personal contact with his subject. During his travels Sesshu visited many Zen monasteries, which further strengthened the Buddhist influences in his art.
Through his impressive artistic innovations, Sesshu defined himself as one of Japan's premiere artists by further modifying the classic approaches of landscape painting to his own ends. He worked in two Chinese styles:
The “hatsuboku” (splashed ink) method; a dramatic and simplistic form with either dark or light wet paint splattered on lighter or darker wet paint- ex: Hatsuboku Landscape for Soen (Mori Collection, Yamaguchi prefecture).
And the “shin” (“lyric”) approach; jutting and angular lines with heavy shading contrast- ex: Longer Landscape Scroll (Tokyo National Museum).