Yesterday I finally bought that Japanese Zen scroll I've been thinking about. It was written in 1918 or 1919 by a Buddhist priest named Nakahara Nantenbo. He was a colorful figure that served as an important bridge to 20th century Zen. Here's a bit about him:
"If I cannot become a priest of extraordinary accomplishment, I will not walk upon the earth," vowed eighteen-year-old Nantenbō (Tōjū Zenchū) to his Zen Master.' The impassioned spirit of this precocious young man was to burn brightly throughout his eighty-seven years. Not only did he rise through ecclesiastical ranks to an exalted position at one of the most prestigious Rinzai Zen monasteries in Japan, he was "a Zen priest of the people."' In his determination to restore Zen to its former purity and brilliance, he emulated the severe methods of legendary Zen masters from the distant past. The thick staff of nandina he used to "encourage" disciples and frighten "false priests" resulted in a great deal of notoriety, giving him the nickname Nantenbō (nandina staff). He also published ten volumes of Zen commentaries, headed numerous Zen study groups and, by his own estimate, brushed over one hundred thousand calligraphies and paintings, which he freely gave away to anyone brave enough to ask. Certainly his efforts helped maintain Zen during Japan's tumultuous modernization. By wielding the brush with unmitigated vigor, he also may have unwittingly exerted tremendous influence on twentieth-century "action" artists and avant-garde calligraphers."
This son of a Samurai attacked the scroll with unusual speed and energy. "Splash" marks at the beginning of his strokes are common, as are abbreviations and bold, dynamic movements.
I'll post a picture when I get a chance. It's not often that I get to collect a piece of fine art, so I'm very pleased about this acquisition--a real treat.