Japanese Paintings and Works of Art

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japanese paintings and works of art

erik thomsen

japanese paintings and works of art

erik thomsen

asian art

Sales exhibition March 31 April 5, 2006 The International Asian Art Fair The Seventh Regiment Armory Park Avenue at 67th Street, New York, NY 10021

Cover: Flowers of the Four Seasons, detail, pair of six-fold screens Anonymous artist of the Rimpa School (Nr. 1)

japanese paintings and works of art

Table of contents 5 7 33 45 59 75 84 86 92foreword and acknowledgements screens paintings bamboo baskets ceramics lacquers signatures, seals and inscriptions notes bibliography

erik thomsen

asian art

foreword and acknowledgementsIt is with great pleasure that I present this inaugural catalog, which includes a selection from my five specialties within classical Japanese art: screens, paintings, bamboo baskets, ceramics and lacquers. Unlike most Japanese art objects seen in the West, all items presented here were made, not with exports in mind, but rather for the Japanese market. Such artwork avoids many of the compromises and alterations in artistic traditions that mark the art made to fit foreign tastes. Instead, we see works of art that were clearly created in line with Japanese aesthetics and traditions. Most of the objects here were made with one or more of the four classical arts in mind: the ways of tea, flowers, calligraphy, and incense (Sad, Kad, Shod, and Kd). Ceramics used in the Way of Tea, Sad, mirror Japanese aesthetics especially well. The simple, imperfect shapes of tea ceramics draw our attention to their beautiful textures and colors that can only truly be appreciated upon holding them in ones hands. Bamboo baskets such as the ones presented in this catalog were made for the Way of Flowers, Kad, to present ikebana flower arrangements. They also represent another important element of the tea ceremony, or Way of Tea. Highly prized by tea masters, they commanded princely sums in the peak years of basket making during the Taish and early Shwa periods, ca. 1910 to 190. Their beauty is obvious in their form, and, upon closer inspection, in the skillful workmanship of the fine details. Signed bamboo baskets such as these were largely unknown in the West until the acclaimed exhibition in 1999 at the Asia Society, New York, of the Cotsen basket collection. Lacquerwork, such as writing boxes and paper boxes, are intrinsic to the Way of Calligraphy, Shod. They were meant to be used, but, like most artwork in Japan, were carefully stored away into fitted boxes when not in use. As a result, they are therefore Erik Thomsen March 2006 Above all I want to thank my wife, Cornelia, for all her support, encouragement, and help that she has given me now during the catalog production and over the years. I can think of no one else who better manages the many tasks as wife, mother, exhibitor, student and artist. I would also like to thank Mr. Daizabur Tanaka, owner of the gallery Tanaka Onkod in Tokyo, where I apprenticed 23 years ago, and my parents, Harry and Ene Marie Thomsen, for giving me the foundations upon which I could grow. I would like to thank those who made this catalog possible: the designer Valentin Beinroth for his clean, imaginative design, attention to detail and boundless energy, which kept me focused on the catalog in spite of fairs and travels; the photographer Klaus Wldele for his patience, long working sessions and good eye; Hans Bjarne Thomsen, my brother, professor in Japanese art history at the University of Chicago, for his invaluable research, which uncovered several surprises; and Inger Sigrun Brodey, my sister, professor in literature at the University of North Carolina, for her proof-reading and good suggestions. today, decades later, in immaculate condition. The simple designs, such as in catalog item 22, are particularly effective against the mirror-black roiro ground, and, when examined up close, reveal superb details. Hanging scrolls and folding screens have been an important part of Japanese art and culture for over a millennium. In the tea ceremony, a tea master would often select a scroll with a painting or calligraphy that provided the best match for the season and occasion. Screens were also used within the tea ceremony, as well as in performances of classical arts, where they functioned as dramatic or festive backgrounds to the event.

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screens

1 Flowers of the Four SeasonsAnonymous artist of the Rimpa School Edo period (161516), early 19th century H 65" W 1" each (165 cm 366 cm) Pair of six-fold screens Ink, mineral colors, and gofun on gold foil. This fine pair of Rimpa School screens presents a journey through the four seasons of the year by representative plants and flowers for each season. For example, plants representing the spring are the kodemari, sumire, and yamabuki. The summer is represented by the iris, lily, nadeshiko, aoi, and kiri. The fall by the chrysanthemum, morning glory, bush clover, ominaeshi, and susuki. And the winter is represented solely by the narcissus. Each of the twelve clusters on the screens represents a group of plants from a particular season. The grouping of the clusters is according to a larger plan: the larger cluster of chrysanthemums growing around a fence forms the left-most panels of the right-hand screen. This group connects to another autumn group in the right-most panels of the lefthand screen. Placed next to each other, these two Similar examples may be seen in a number of museum collections.1 halves combine to form a coherent program: the panels furthest to the right display the only cluster of spring flowers, from this, the directions (like that of a handscroll) goes left, and we travel through groups of summer and autumn clusters. At the very end, we meet with the only winter group in the screens: a small group of narcissus peeking from around the farthest corner.

2 Birds and Flowers of the SeasonsCircle of Ogata Krin (16581716) Edo period (16151868), early 18th century H 65" W 142 " each (165 cm 362 cm) Pair of six-fold screens Ink, colors, and gofun on paper An anonymous Rimpa School artist has created a luxurious and dense undergrowth of flowering plants and trees, which conceals not only additional flora, but also a pair of quail and pheasants among its vegetation. This pair of folding screens with painting in ink, colors, and gofun represents a collection of the flowering plants of the four seasons. There are the spring flowers, wisteria, willow, thistle, kodamari, suzushiro, shakuyaku, and kobushi. The summer plants are represented by mizuaoi, uri, tsuyukusa, iris, lily, peony, and an eggplant. The autumn plants include susuki, kiky, keit, nadeshiko, ominaeshi, kuzu, bush clover, morning glory, and gourds. The sole winter plant is the pine. Here, as in other works, the flowers of the autumn are clearly favored: the autumn flowers are centered on an entire six-fold screen, while the other six-fold screen is divided among the flowers of the three other seasons. A favorite technique of Rimpa artists can be seen here, namely the tarashikomi, a process that involves dripping ink of differing modality into ink that has not yet dried, thus producing a mottled effect. In addition, the ink modalities are carefully varied, in order to create a convincing sense of depth to the leafy undergrowth: there is a clearly articulated layering of leaves, important in a work with this many leaves and flowers arranged on top of each other in a small space.

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3 Fan Screen with Scenes from the Tales of IseFollower of Tawaraya Statsu (?163?) Edo period (161516), early 1th century H 6 " W 7" (16 cm 1 cm) Single two-fold screen Ink, mineral colors, and gofun on paper, with gold foil ground A follower of Statsu painted this fine and early two-panel screen with the depiction of twelve fans, scattered on a gold ground. Of the twelve, two are closed and ten are either fully or partly opened. Most of the fans are seasonal in nature and depict flowers or plants in bloom or in the process of changing colors. For example, spring is represented by cherry blossoms and the willow; the summer is represented by the hydrangea (ajisai), and the autumn by the bush clover (hagi) and the maple leaves. In addition, vigorous waves are associated with the stormy seas of the autumn. The winter is represented by a pair of fans to the lower left corner, which depicts Prince Ariwara no Narihira (250), the main character of Ise Monogatari, on horse, looking at a snow-clad Mt. Fuji in the neighboring fan; the distance between the rider and the far-away mountain is here represented by separating the scene onto two different fans. The source of the image is a poem by Narihira that describes Mt. Fuji as seen on a journey: Indifferent to the seasons Mount Fuji stands aloft Flecked like a kanako cloth With fallen snow The visual representation of this famous poem usually centers on the Prince on horseback, looking over his side at the snow-clad Mt. Fuji in the distance. Fan screens present us with distinct puzzles: was the placement of the fans on the screen controlled by the artist? Are the groupings and placements of the This particular screen may also contain an inner meaning: a meaning that focused on the only figural representation in the screen, namely Prince Narihira. The placement of the Prince may be significant, as we have another screen, a six-fold screen by the school of Statsu, that is roughly contemporary to the two-fold screen in this catalog. In the six-panel screen, a fan with a seated figure appears at exactly the same position, i.e., the lower left corner, on the last panel, second to bottom fan.3 In this case, as with the other, a courtier appears among fans whose subjects are all seasonal markers. In the case of the two-fold screen, the ensemble of fans, if indeed intended as an ensemble, may all be markers to various