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Ensō

Kanshū Sōjun, better known by his art name Deiryū, was a student of the renowned Buddhist monk and painter, Nantembō. Deiryū began his course of study in 1911 when Nantembō was seventy-two years old. In 1913 Deiryū was formally accepted for training as a Buddhist monk.

The word ens means circle, but its form, and ultimately its meaning, is closely associated with the practice of Zen Buddhism in Japan. The simple circle embodies Zen ideals of enlightenment, often compared to the full moon—completed, but empty, and timeless. In the West, too, the circle implies endlessness and completeness, and, in the symbol of the halo, spiritual perfection. For the painter and the viewer, painting and contemplating an ensō becomes a spiritual exercise in concentration and meditation.

Kanshū Sōjun (also known as Deiryū)
Japanese, 1895–1954
Ensō
20th century
Ink on paper
16 1/8 x 15 5/8 in. (40.9 x 39.7 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Gift from the Collection of Dr. Thomas Kuebler, 2014.72