Donshû or Tonshû (呑舟) was a gô (art name: 號) used by Ohara Kon (大原鯤, died 1857), who also used the gô Konron (崑崙). Born in Kyoto, Donshû was the son of Ohara Donkei (大原呑鯨, worked c. first quarter 19th C.) and a follower of Shibata Gitô (柴田義董, 1780-1819), an important Shijô-style painter who was also Donkei's teacher. We can trace this lineage back to the founder of the Maruyama school of painting, Maruyama Ôkyo (円山応挙, 1733-95), a key figure in the history of Japanese art who combined many influences in his works, excepting bunjinga (literati painting: 文人画). In particular, Ôkyo was well trained in anatomy and Western pictorial techniques, and he encouraged his students to draw from nature. One of his followers was Matsumura Goshun (松村呉春, 1752-1811), a bunjinga-eshi and former pupil of the Nanga painter and poet Yosa Buson (与謝蕪村, 1716-83) who after Buson's death joined Ôkyo's studio, attracted to the style and thematic strength of the Maruyama artists. One of Goshun's students was the aforementioned Shibata Gitô.
Donshû was especially skilled at landscapes in the Maruyama-Shijô style while also producing some fine figure paintings, as in the example offered here. Works by Donshû are in important public collections such as the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, England, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
A seated beauty holds a plectrum used to play a samisen (三味線) she has placed on the floor in front of a painted six-panel byôbu (lit., "wind barrier," i.e., a folding floor screen: 屏風). She leans back to reveal a small section of her red underrobe, which imparts an erotic hue to this charming scene.
References: Roberts, A Dictionary of Japanese Artists, p. 182; Mitchell, Illustrated Books of the Nanga, Maruyama, Shijô, and Other Related Schools of Japan, p. 41; Rathbun, Sasaki, Ôkyo and the Maruyama-Shijô School of Japanese Painting