Creativity and Aging: What the Active Lives of Older Artists Can Tell Us

--The Mature Work of Yosa Buson and the Concept of Late Style--


By Bruce Darling


This discussion of the mature work of Yosa Buson and the concept of late style begins with a brief biography of Busons early and middle years, then turns to Busons last decade and his mastery of three arts_haiku poetry, painting, calligraphy. The point is made that Buson remained creatively engaged in his art right up until he died. Emphatic evidence of this is Busons haiga, or haiku-spirited painting, discussed here in relation to the concept of late style. Clearly an older artist can look forward to continued personal growth and still additional artistic development. The implications of Busons late creativity are profound.

Brief Biography of Early and Middle Aged Years

Early Years

Buson was born in Kema Village(毛馬村) in Settsu Province (present day Kema-cho, Miyakonojima-ku, Osaka) in the year 1716 (享保元年); his family name was either Tani (谷)or Taniguchi(谷口) . Very little is known about his early upbringing. His father and mother seem to have split up in 1723 when Buson was eight years old; his mother passed away in 1728, the same year Buson turned 13, the age when boys celebrated their coming of age ceremony. His father may have died about that time as well. His family probably had some status in his farming village for he had a surname; moreover a later record states he squandered his family inheritance. Buson himself said very little about his early years.

Kant_ Period

Buson apparently went to Edo in 1732 at the age of 17, though one theory claims he was twenty. His motivation remains unclear. Buson appears to have begun studying haiku with Hayano Hajin S_a (早野巴人宋阿; 1676-1742), after Hajin returned from Kyoto in 1737. Residing at Hajins Yahantei residence (夜半亭 ) (midnight pavilion) as a live-in student, Buson studied the haiku tradition of Bash_ for Hajin had studied in Edo with two of Bash_s early disciples, Hattori Ransetsu 服部嵐雪(1654-1707) and Enomoto Kikaku 榎本其角 (1661-1707). At some about this time he adopted the haiku go 号、or artistic name, of Saich_ 宰町(later changed to 宰鳥 .

Also during this period, Buson also pursued painting, apparently basically teaching himself. He learned by studying actual Chinese and Japanese paintings, and by examinng Chinese paintings manuals. He also seems to have been acquainted with the Confucian scholar, Chinese poet and painter Hattori Nangaku (服部南郭, 1683-1759). He took a separate go, Ch_s_ 朝滄 , for his painting. After his haikai teacher Hajin S_a died in 1742, Buson spent the next ten years or so wandering. First he stayed around Shimousa Y_ki 下総結城(present day Ibaraki Prefecture), invited by Isaoka Gant_ 砂岡雁宕. Then he spent a year (1743) or so traveling north, retracing Bash_s travels set down in his Oku no hosomi 奥の細道 (Narrow road to the deep north), through Utsunomiya, Fukushima, over the mountains to Sakata on the Sea of Japan; from there he went along the coast to Kisagata, Akiuta, Noshisro and finally reaching Sotogahama. Then he turned back south going along the eastern Pacific coast, visiting Morioka, Hiraizumi, Matsushima, Sendai and Shiroishi, before heading back to Fukushima and Y_ki. During this period he visited other students of Hajin, stayed at Buddhist temples, and made his way as a haikai teacher. The name Buson appears on a collection of New Year Poems 「歳旦帖」 published in Utsunomiya in 1744. Hence at the age of 29 years, we see the first use of the go , or artistic name, by which he is best known, Buson, a name he may have derived either from Tao Yuan-mings poem Home Again, which includes the line I must return. My fields and orchards are invaded by weeds or perhaps from his longing for his own rundown village.

During this period he also apparently wrote a beautiful elegy to an older man, Hayami Shinga 早見晋我(1671-1742) who had befriended him through haiku. The poem, Mourning the Old Poet Hokuju ([「寿老仙をいたむ」)included in the Japanese poetry anthology 「いそのはな」), may be dated as early as 1745. He signed this with the Buddhist name Monk Buson 釈蕪村.

Because he was moving around so much he most likely could only study painting on his own, apparently working both with Japanese and Chinese painting styles. He left only a few paintings from this period: the fusuma paintings of Ink Plum Trees at the Pure Land temple Gugy_-ji 弘経寺 (Buson Zensh_ (Collected works of Buson) VI, painting #10); copies of Eight landscape scenes purportedly by Wen Cheng-ming 文徴明(no signature, but passed down in the Nakamura family in Shimodate) (Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #9). He often used his Shimei 四明 signature on his Chinese style paintings, as for example Fisherman(Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #27)

West to Kyoto

In 1751 at the age of 37, Buson brought to an end his ten years of wandering about in the eastern and northern Japan and headed to Kyoto. He first visited fellow haiku students M_otsu (毛越) and S_oku (宋屋 ) , the latter with whom he kept up a long close relationship. He stayed in Kyoto for about 3 years, depending on the assistance of Hajins disciples and living in Buddhist temples, such as a lodging affiliated with the Pure Land temple Chion-in. During these initial years in Kyoto Buson was an unknown haiku teacher; in painting as well no works have been identified from this time. His stay in Kyoto gave Buson the opportunity to examine first hand screen paintings and other traditional Chinese and Japanese scrolls preserved in Kyotos temples and shrines. This was a period whe Buson familiarized himself with past masters and developed his own technique.

Tango Interlude

In 1754, Buson went to the Tango(丹後) area where he stayed at the Pure Land affiliated temple of Kensh_-ji (見性寺) in Miyazu, Yosa County (与謝郡宮津 ). While some scholars have speculated that he went here because it was his mothers birthplace, others believe it was because Sasaki Hyakusen (1697-1752), a Nanga painter, haiku poet, and haiga painter, had just recently sojourned here before returning to Kyoto in 1752 where he passed away. In Miyazu Chikukei 竹渓、the head priest at Kensh_-ji was one of the few people with whom to share his haiku. Another was the poet Roj_ 鷺十, to whom he gave a haiga-type ink painting of Amanohashidate (Buson Zensh_ VI, haiku painting #2; calligraphy #16)with a long inscription that refers to Hyakusen:

Hassenkan Hyakusen was fond of red and blue coloring and liked paintings of

the Ming dynasty. N_d_jin Buson takes plesure in painting and also works in

the Chinese manner. Both of us admired the haiku of Bash_. Hyakusen studied

Otsuy_ (Renji) but did not imitate him. I belong to Kikakus group but do not

imitate Kikaku (Shinshi). Neither of us had ambition to gain a reputation

through out haiku.

When he came to this place on his way back to Kyoto, Hyakusen wrote this


Over Hashidate

Distant rain approaches_

The end of autumn.

My haiku upon departing is:

Tail of a wagtail_


Left behind me.


During the three years Buson was in Tango, he seems to have focused his energy primarily on developing his painting, studying actual works of the Kano school, Sakaki Hyakusen, the yamato-e style, as well as models in Chinese painting manuals such as the late Ming early Ching poet Li Yus 李漁 (also known as Li Li-weng 李笠翁) Mustard Seed Garden (Chieh tzu yuan hua chuan |芥子園畫傳). Evidence from extant works includes the following: First Emperors search for the Elixir of immortality, pair of 6-fold screens , owned by Seyaku-ji (Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #18); Scene of Gion Shrine Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #20).

Settling in Kyoto

Buson, at the age of 42 years, returned to Kyoto in 1757, settling there for the rest of his life. In 1758 he changed his last name from Taniguchi to Yosa, perhaps in memory of his mothers possible birthplace in the Tango region where he had just spent three years. He perhaps also felt a new name was appropriate for one establishing himself as a professional painter. He used several go : Ch_k_ 長康, Shunsei 春星、 Sankaken 三菓軒 . He studied the colorful flower, bird and animal paintings of Shen Nanpin (c.1682-1760), e.g. Horse Painting, dated to 1759 (Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #50; also #51), as well as other Chinese painting styles based on original scrolls as well as on examples in painting manuals. Though he was becoming quite well known as a painter, he still struggled for funds. During this time, his friends and students helped out by forming mutual financial associations ()  to help him buy supplies for painting large scale screens and smaller works as well. With such assistance, between 1763 and 1766, Buson executed perhaps as many as 24 pairs of large screen paintings on satin, silk and paper. (See Buson Zensh_ VI, painting, see from #92 to #149.)

Back and Forth to Sanuki

Between 1766 and 1768, he traveled back and forth between Kyoto and Sanuki (讃岐) present-day Kagawa Prefecture, while in his early 50s, residing there and elsewhere in Shikoku for extended periods. While his reasons for going to Shikoku are not entirely clear, he seems to have had commissions for various paintings. On the other hand, he often stayed with people from his haiku contacts. The general tone of his painting at this time may be seen in the large fusuma-e of Japanese Cycad palm trees蘇鉄図 he did for My_h_-ji temple (Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #202). Other paintings from this time include: Han-shan and Shih-t_, a large hanging scroll after the Ming painter Liu Ch_n 劉俊 (Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #193) and Cold forest desiring rain, an ink landscape hanging scroll after Shen Chou 沈周 (Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #194). These represent some of his Chinese style works from this time. He does not seem to have left any truly haiga paintings from his Sanuki sojourns. Comparing the works he executed in Sanuki with his later paintings, Buson, while certainly a talent artist with a vigorous brush, was still to develop as a painter.

Establishing Himself in Kyoto

Back in Kyoto Buson, in along with Tan Taigi 炭太祇 (1709-71) and Kuroyanagi Sh_ha 黒柳召波 (d. 1771), and Denpuku 田福 (1720-1793) established his first haiku group, the Sankasha(三菓社) in 1766. He apparently married and had a daughter around this time. Little is known about his wife Tomo aand his daughter Kuno though they are briefly mentioned in some of Busons later letters. In 1770, at the age of 55, Buson assumed the mantel of his former haiku teacher Hajin, acceding to the title Yahantei 2nd. After Taigi and Sh_ha died, Buson became the Kyoto leader of the haiku revival movement known as the Return to Bash_”「蕉風復興」 movement, a nationwide movement aimed at correctly understanding and conveying the essence of Bash_s haiku. Clearly haiku poetry was playing a central role in Busons artistic life at this time. For example, books of poetry such as Light from the snow Sono yuki kage”『其雪影 (1772), Kono hotori Around here 『このほとり』and A Crow at dawn Ake garasu 『明烏』(1773) were published around this time.

Buson also achieved recognition as a leading Kyoto painter during this period as demonstrated by the listing of his name and address as a leading Kyoto painter in the Heian jinbutsushi (平安人物志), or Kyoto Whos Who, of 1768. He is listed here along with U`nishii , Maruyama Okyo, It_ Jakuch_, Ikeno Taiga. His address is given as 4条烏丸東へ入る町. In 1770 he moved to 室町通綾小路下る町.  Buson continued to be listed as a Kyoto painter in the Heian jinbutsushi of 1775 (Busons was listed here along with Okyo, Jakuch_, and Taiga.). Buson was also listed in the 1782 edition. Busons relationships with these artists is not clear. For example, in 1771, in collaboration with Ikeno Taiga he painted the Ten Pleasures album leaves signing with the go, Sha Shunsei 謝春星)to go along with Taigas Ten Conveniences album leaves in 1771 (Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #23). The two artists joined in this project to illustrate twenty poems written by the poet Li Yu李漁 in praise of the ten conveniences and ten pleasures that he enjoyed at his mountain retreat Yi-yuan 伊園 on Mount Yi 伊山. The wealthy art lover who commssioned this project was Shimozato Gakkai下郷学海 of Owari Province尾張国鳴海 (present day Aichi Prefecture). Also, Buson and Taiga each contributed fusuma paintings in the H_j_ at Gingaku-ji,(Jish_-ji ) then under the control of the Zen temple S_koku-ji. Today, three sets of Busons paintings for Ginkaku-ji are extant ((Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #255, 256, 257). Otherwise we know litttle about Buson and Taigas relationship. With Maruyama Oky_ the situation is a little clearer. The two lived near one another in the same Shij_ area of Kyoto. They had ready opportunity to meet; they both copied the same Chinese painting Wizards of Mount H_rai 『蓬莱仙奕』、and did a joint work (along with Goshun呉春 ) in 1774 in spite of their different painting styles. Furthermore a rather close relationship is suggested by the fact that when Buson died, his leading disciple, Matsumura Gekkei 松村月渓 (1752-1811; later known as Goshun), was welcomed into the Maruyama-Shij_ school both as Busons leading disciple and as a painter in his own right. Goshun later established the Shij_ school. Busons development as a painter during these years is demonstrated by the range of his oeuvre_landscapes, figures, flowers, birds and animals, haiga_ in various formats large and small. One of the characteristics of Buson the painter is the great diversity of styles of paintings with his signatures and seals--observable throughout this maturing period.

Busons Last Decade: The Mature Years


The last decade of Busons life saw his creativity achieve its greatest heights. 1777 was the year of Busons greatest literary output. The best known works are Shunp_ batei kyoku (Melodies of the spring breeze on Kema Dike), a free verse travelogue that is a nostalgic look back at Kema combing Chinese and Japanese poems with haiku; Shin hanatsumi (New flower picking), starting out as a collection of haiku but ending up a haiku dairy with memories and stories of his early travels; Shundei kushu (Spring mud: A collection of verse), a haiku collection of Sh_ha that includes a preface by Buson with his best known statement on haiku theory:

I once met Shundeisha Sh_ha at his villa in the western suburbs of Kyoto. At that time he questioned me about haikai. I answered that the essence of haikai is to use ordinary words and yet become separate from the ordinary; be separate from the ordinary and still use the ordinary.

How to become separate from the ordinary is most difficult. A certain Zen monk said, You should try to listen to the sound of the clapping of one hand. This is the Zen of haikai and the way of being separated from the ordinary.

Buson continues by suggesting that Sh_ha achieve this state of mind by reading books, especially Chinese poetry, as is recommended for painters in the Li Yus Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting.

The principle of detachment was advocated by a certain Chinese painter. To eliminate the mundane from a painting, there is no way other than the following, he said. When you devote yourself to reading, the spirit of the books will permeate you and the earthly mood in your mind will dissipate. Anyone learning the art of painting should remember that fact. According to his teaching, even painters are to set aside their brushes and read books. Surely the distance between haikai and Chinese poetry must be said to be shorter.

Busons stressing the importance of Chinese poetry to the art of haiku indicates his broad views of not only haiku but of painting as well. He even painted portraits of such favorite Chinese poets as Han Shan, Tao Yuan-ming, Li Po. He was very much in sympathy with his own teacher Hajins admonition to Buson when he was a young man about strict adherence to established models rather than letting ones own creativity have free reign. Buson wrote about Hajin and his teachings about haiku in the preface to Mukashi o Ima, dated to 1744:

_.One night while he was sitting formally, he told me, In the way of haikai you should not always adhere to the masters method. In every case you should be different, and in an instant, you should continue on without regard to whether you are being traditional or innovative. With this striking statement I

understood and came to know the freedom within haikai. Thus, what I demonstrate to my disciples is not to imitate Soas casual way but to long for sabi (elegant simplicity) and shiori (sensitivity}) of Basho, with the intention of getting back to the original viewpoint. This means to go against the external and to respond to the internal. It is the Zen of haikai and the heart-to-heart way.

As mentioned above, Buson took a leading role in the Return to Bash_ movement in Kyoto, as is shown by his close involvement in 1776 in rebuilding of Bash_-an at Konpuku-ji, located in Ichij_-ji 一乗寺village at the foot of Mount Hiei.  He wrote, among other things, a Record of the rebuilding of Bash_s Grass Hut in Eastern Kyoto, depositing it in the temple. This served as a meeting place for Busons poetry group to gather and recite haiku and linked verse renga. In 1777 he established the Danrinkai (檀林会 ) haiku school. Busons haiku activities, however, apparently earned him little money. He supported himself and his family as a professional painter. His financially problems stemmed from his freely spending on food, drink and women. He enjoyed partying with friends and having a good time. He also got involved with a courtesan named Koito 小糸. A representative work is the large fusuma painting depicting Landcape in an Evening Shower(Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #420) executed, after the method of Ma Yuan, when he was 65 years of age. This painting, along with other works such as the White Plum, Red Plum single four-fold screen (Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #421), is still extant in the Sumiya 角屋 , supporting the idea that Buson was not at all a recluse who thought himself above the dusty world. In Busons day, Sumiya, a high class brothel in Shimabara district, served also as a salon for artists and poets to visit and enjoy drinking, music, and the arts. The owner at that time, Toku Uemon (haikai go-Tokuya) 徳右衛門(俳号_徳野, was a good friend who studied haiku with Buson.


Turning to the Busons painting in his last decade, we find at least three signatures. The signature Buson 蕪村 is seen on works from 1772-1782 and that of Yahan-_ 夜半翁 is found on works dating from 1782-1783/4. The most commonly found of Busons names from this time is the go, or artistic name, Sha-in 謝寅 , found on some 172 works(of a total of 196) from the period 1778-1783/4, thus giving these productive years the name Sha-in period. These paintings are generally considered to include some the best representatives of Busons so-called Nanga paintings, works reflecting the spirit of the Chinese literati and their Southern School influences. Paintings with the Sha-in signature and/or seal include small hanging scrolls as well as large scale screens; subjects include, figures, birds, and landscapes, often with clear Chinese references in theme if not style. The tremendous output includes a great variety or works. Throughout Busons career, he read the works of Chinese poets, studied the works of various Chinese painters and depicted subjects favored by the Chinese intelligentsia. Sung, Yuan, Ming and Ching painters names we find in his inscriptions include Wen Cheng-ming, Shen Nan-pin Ma Y_an, Mi Fu, Chao Meng-fu, Wang Meng, Liu Ch_n, Shen Chou, Tang Yin, Tung Chi-chang.

For example, Busons figure painting includes a pair of scrolls depicting Tao Yuan-mings Peach Blossom Spring Paradiseand dating to 1781 (Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #435). Tao Yuan-ming was one of Busons favorite poets. The figures in this paintings seems to derive from the Ming Dynasty Che School, but ameliorated with Busons poetic inclinations and more relaxed brushwork. Here Buson depicts the elderly figures as happy and vigorous people clearly fully engaged in life.

Two small representative landscapes from this period such as Clearing after a Spring Rain (Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #435) and Cuckoo in Flight(Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #395) seem to capture their scenes at a instance of shimmering foliage, with a particular light and atmosphere. Busons poetic renderings call up the intent and feeling of landscapes from the Southern Sung period. Larger scale works such as a pair of screens entitled Thatched Hut in a Bamboo Grove and Path through the Willow Grove ((Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #489) are executed with similar intent.

Crows and a Kite, a pair of hanging scrolls (Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #573) with the Sha-in signature from this period have a feeling somewhat detached from Busons Nanga-style landscapes. The bold compositions, rapid and loose brushwork, interesting application of ink reflect again Busons poetic temperament. This must have been a popular Buson theme for eight other works with this theme have been catalogued (Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #566-575).

A painting that has a poetic sense even closer to Busons haiga works is Night Over the Snow -covered City (Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #538), one of Busons most loved paintings. The gray, snowy sky, the repeated patterns of the roof lines, the freshly fallen snow and the night lights adding accents to Busons immediate yet enduring vision. In his painting as in his haikai he wanted to be separate from the ordinary. He unquestionably succeeded here. Closely related in style is the scroll painting of Mount Gabi (Buson Zensh_ VI, painting #537).

The great number and variety of paintings attributed to Busons Sha-in period should remind us to explore further the make up of Busons studio. A perusal of the paintings given in Buson zensh_ VI provides suggestions on what works one might begin with. We should also note that because this period of Busons oeuvre was so popular many forgeries were also produced with the Sha-in signature.

As might be expected with the preponderance of Sha-in signatures on Busons Nanga paintings, it is the signature Buson (蕪村) and that of Yahan-_ (夜半翁) that appear on Busons haiga, which mostly date from this late period (113 of the 124 total haiga cataloged in Buson Zensh_, vol. 6, haiku paintings). Busons haiga may well represent his greatest contribution to the arts. One representative example is the hanging scroll Young Bambooswith an inscription by the artist (Buson Zensh_ VI, haiku painting #38). This freshing painting, in ink on paper with faint touches of color, shows two or three faintly outlined huts seen through two stands of bamboos rendered in darker ink with thin stalks and rapidly brushed leaves. Above Buson has written:

Yes, the young bamboos_

And Hashimoto courtesans,

Are they there or not? (#626)

In these haiga Buson brings together his haiku poetry and prose, his painting, and his calligraphy in full completion of a new composite art form joining these three arts. After discussing further some of the artistic developments we observe over Busons long career, I will return to a discussion of Busons haiga in relation to the concept of late style.


Busons third art, calligraphy, also stands him apart. His calligraphy, too, reached its full development in his mature years. Often Busons brush strokes reveal no change in brush pressure and so there is little indication of his using the upper, fatter part of the brush. As with Busons painting, the artist seems to have taught himself with little attention to the mastery of the 8 types of brush strokes traditionally practiced in writing the character nagai”「永」 -- we see little stopping, thrusting, jumping. In other words, Busons freely and easily drawn lines, suggesting a relaxed wrist, and a flexible and flowing movement from the elbow, is a perfect match for the brushwork he used for his haiga paintings. See, for example, the light-hearted, drunken, dancing depiction of Matabei, with an inscription by the artist, the signature Buson and the seals Ch_k_ 長庚and Shunsei 春星 (Buson Zensh_ VI, haiku painting #50). The inscription reads as follows:

The blossoms of the capital have begun to fall and scatter_

It looks like the white pigment flaking off a painting by Mitsunobu

Meeting Matabei_

We see the flowers in full bloom at Omuro (#1955)


Master of Three Arts

Buson, hence, showed himself to be a master of three arts_haiku poetry, painting, calligraphy. Today Buson is ranked along side BashU` and Issa as one of Japans three greatest haiku poets, is ranked next to Taiga as one of the two artists who made the Chinese literati painting genres, models, and ideals into a full-fledged Japanese painting art, known as Nanga or Southern painting, and in acknowledged for the creation of his haiku- spirited calligraphy (俳諧の書).

Other important Edo period literati artists were also masters of more than one of the arts: Taiga was known for his painting and calligraphy, Mokubei for his painting and ceramics, Gyokudo for his painting and music. But when it comes to full mastery not only of two, but of three, arts, and then more remarkably melding these into a single new artistic form, haiga, Buson stands alone. Indeed, Buson may come closest of all the Edo period so-called literati painters to the Chinese literati ideal of superiority in the arts of poetry, calligraphy and paintings (「詩書画三絶」).

Also of interest is the fact that Busons top disciple, Goshun, took after his teacher in this respect, mastering three artistic genres-- haiku, painting and music (specifically the flute).

Creative until the End

Buson, like so many other artists, did not retire. He continued to work creatively as a poet and painter right up until he died. His Tenmei era (1781-1784) paintings confirm his vitality at this time; Buson zensh_ IV lists 136 paintings (i.e. 24% of this total painting output) and 25 haiga (i.e. 20% of his total haiga output). Buson also continued to be active in the realm of haiku poetry. As mentioned above, he was involved in the rebuilding of Bash_an at Konpuku-ji, and he diligently attended memorial services for not only Bash_ (3rd mouth, 1783) but also for his former haiku companions Taigi and Sh_ha. He left a painting with an inscription about his trip to Uji to hunt for mushrooms in September. He was taken ill and passed away at on the 25day, 12month Tenmei 3year (1783) (recalculated to January 17, 1784 in the western calendar). In his final days, his family, along with his leading disciples Baitei and Goshun, watched over him. Goshun recorded the final poem Buson whispered to him:


White plum blossoms_

In the night I thought I saw

The light of dawn

Buson was buried near Bash_ at Konpuku-ji, in keeping with the wishes he expressed in an earlier poem:

我も死して碑に辺せむ枯尾花 (#1099

When I too depart,

Ill adorn the masters tomb

With dried pampas grass.


Busons Haiga and the Concept of Late Style

Busons so-called haiga may well represent his greatest contribution to the arts. These haiga bring together Busons haiku poetry, his painting, and his calligraphy in full completion of a new composite form fusing these three arts. Buson himself, it should be noted, never used the term haiga 俳画, calling them instead quick drawings of haikai (i.e. haiku) things (はいかい{俳諧}ものの草画). The precise definition of Busons haiga, then remains open to interpretation. After all, the term haiga”(“haikai-e 俳諧絵) apparently was first used by Watanabe Kazan in his Haiga-fu, or Haiga Album. Buson zensh_ VI, includes three types of paintings under the heading haiku painting: (1) quickly brushed drawings, sometimes with light color, accompanied by a haiku-spirited inscription (Buson zensh_ VI, haiku paintings, various numbers from #17-72); (2) somewhat more detailed portraits of Bash_ (although paintings of other masters are also included) , rendered in ink and light color and accompanied typically by a longer inscription (Buson zensh_ , haiku paintings #86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 101, 102, 103, 104); (3) depictions, again rendered with somewhat more detail in ink and light color, illustrating Bash_s haibun, or haiku-spirited prose, formatted as screens or horizontal scrolls (One six-fold screen illustrates Nozarashi kik_, or Records of a Weather-Exposed Skeleton (Buson zensh_, haiku painting #77); three horizontal picture scrolls (Buson zensh_ VI, haiku paintings #78, 80, 859 and one six-fold screen illustrate Oku no hosomichi, or The Narrow Road to the deep north (Buson zensh_, VI haiku painting #84).

Buson clearly took pride in his haiga, claiming in a letter to Kit_, dated 11th day 8th month 1776, that there was no artist as talented at haikaimono no s_ga as himself. Buson, of course, did not invent haikaimono no s_ga by himself. Forerunners such as Ry_ho 立圃 (1595-1669)Saikaku 西鶴 (1624-93), and Bash_ 芭蕉  (1644-94) can be named as having left haiga-like paintings. But it may well have been Sakaki Hyakusen, both a haiku poet and Nanga painter, to whom Buson is most indebted as a predecessor in the haiga genre. Buson, however, as a professional painter as well as a professional haiku master, but also endowed with wit, humor, extemporaneousness, along with clarity and lightness, brought to the haiga painting genre a completeness that sets his haiga apart from earlier examples. With Buson haiga as a genre comes into its own. Busons haiga, like his haiku, include the commonplace yet leave the ordinary behind, capture the moment yet allow the flow of time to continue.

Turning to the issue of late style, a perusal the paintings of Busons mature years, we can see that Busons mature work exhibits no single style in the late stage of his career. He continued to work in a variety of manners throughout his life while he continued to mature and develop as an artist. His so-called mature Nanga paintings hence continued to demonstrate this. Some of Busons later works, however, do seem to have certain qualities that relate them more closely to the spirit and technique found in his haiga paintings. Furthermore, as stated above, Busons haiga, or haiku-spirited paintings, date mostly from his last decade (113 of the 124 total haiga cataloged in Buson Zensh_, vol. 6, haiku paintings) and certainly reflect his maturity as poet, painter and calligrapher. So the question raised is whether Busons paintings in the haiku spirit share stylistic or other qualities with works that may be associated with what we term late style, after Rudolf Arnheim.

Late style, also referred to as old age style, is a term applied to a distinct phase of artistic development that comes at the end of the careers of many great artists. The validity of this rather recent concept is not without question, though discussions of the concept are found in the writing of art historians, psychologists and researchers on aging and life span development. Arnheim, for example, characterizes this phase of artistic development in the last stage of life as distinguished by detached contemplation, material characteristics are not longer relevant. It is characterized by a world view that transcends outer appearances to search out the underlying essentials. Compositions move from a stage of development in time to that of a state of pervasive aliveness. Arnheim uses that term homogenize to describe the tendency to remove a single emphasis and to endow a work with an evenness of texture. Resemblances outweigh the differences, and these works often have a looseness in structure and placement of elements and, with regard to paintings and drawings, in the application of line and color. Kastenbaum states that The late style is often characterized by an economy of means, a conciseness of expression in which the essence is communication without a superfluous brushstroke, word, or note. Furthermore, such descriptive terms appear to be apt in every way when applied to Busons haiku-spirited paintings.

The term late style has generally been used to discuss the late works of artists in the western tradition such as Michelangelo, Goya, Rembrandt, Monet, Degas, to mention only a very few painters. We also see the term applied to the works of musicians, composers and writers. Generally speaking, connoisseurs tend top view the works so designated as among the most profound of these artists. Furthermore, discussions of creativity in old age often bring in the creative work of people in all sorts of other professions as well. In China, too, critics tend to lavish praise on the late work of Chinese painting masters.

On the other hand, certain Zen-spirited paintings such as Mu Chis atmospheric southern Hsiao and Hsiang landscapes or Liang Kais minimalist portrait of Li Po exhibit characteristics similar to those works described with the term late style, though they need not be late works themselves. Although some may be tempted to link Zen painting with haiga, Busons haiga are not Zen paintings. Although his work does not show any strong Buddhist tendency as such, Buson was certainly familiar with Zen teachings. The shared features of Zen painting and haiga perhaps may be attributed, at least partially, to the use of common materials and shared techniques. Furthermore, the similarity between the two may also stem from a shared maturity of vision that comprehends the world as a whole, that eliminates the superfluous, that sees and seeks to convey the world reduced to its essence. Busons haiga, hence, serve as a superb representative of a multi-talented mature artists late style and as such offers support for the very concept of late style.

The Implications of the Concept Late Style

The implications of the validity of the concept of late style are profound_an artists development and creativity does not necessarily continually decline with the onset of middle age. Rather, the middle aged and older artist, by continuing to engage in problems and risk the search for solutions to these problems, may well look forward to continued personal growth and still additional artistic development. And with time clearly running out, such an older artist may well be much more focused, both on the artistic problem itself and on the manner in which it may be resolved. Indeed, his last years may see the artist create the very best work of his career. With respect aging in general, this means that older people do not necessarily lose the ability or the will to create. Furthermore, by striving to the challenges of making something new, of seeing things in a new way, of challenging the commonplace, the older person continues to exercise his mind in an active manner. Older people, hence, can certainly look forward to the possibility of aging in a vital manner.

Note) Much of this research was conducted with support from the Ministry of Education

/Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Grant #11680240); the discussion

of vital aging and the attached bibliography on Art and Creative Aging are new.