According to the colophon, the figures depicted in the lower part of the print are two samurai of Aizu; the large figure in the front is Isamu Sôkichirô, who has challenged the figure in the rear, Rokuya Ongun Taiyu, to a vendetta.
In this monumental scroll, Nukina Kaioku has brushed a Chinese poem of his own composition, on the enduring theme of nature as refreshment for the spirit. Note his masterful variation of thick and thin strokes, wet and dry ink, stately and rapid movement.
The verses may be tentatively rendered into English as follows:
Mandarin ducks enjoy the fresh water; their graceful forms glow as they pass through channels in the reeds.
Pushing beyond the thickets [to the open pond], they call to one another again and again in the dawn.
A crimson mist breaks through gaps in the glade, its glow warming hidden nests.
Waking up with nothing to do, [I came here] to playfully row among the spring waves.
Calligraphy was considered the quintessential art of the East Asian scholar, as it reveals both the writer’s knowledge of tradition and his own persona. By following each line of text, we can visually and even kinesthetically experience the gestures of the artist’s brush, arm, and whole body. Because nothing is hidden or re-worked, the creative process seems to replay itself before our eyes in real time, with searing honesty. it is a supremely confident work, probably from the last two decades of his life.
Two cubs lay beneath their mother, whose back is to the viewer, yet curves her head around to face outwards. Her eyes are golden, and look out towards the viewer. One cub looks up at its mother with closed eyes. The mother's white whiskers stand out against the otherwise warm, golden tones of the painting.
Two cubs lay beneath their mother, whose back is to the viewer, yet curves her head around to face outwards. Her eyes are golden, and look out towards the viewer as if the send a threatening message to stay away. One cub looks up at its mother with closed eyes, perhaps hungry. The mother's white whiskers stand out against the otherwise warm, golden tones of the painting.