A World of Flowers – from the Rimpa School to Contemporary Art
Attentive readers of my postings may remember a magnificent exhibition I had the pleasure of introducing in October last year that was shown on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Yamatane Museum of Art
From 22 April 2017 to 18 June 2017 the museum exhibits yet another wonderful selection of its own collection: A World of Flowers – from the Rimpa School to Contemporary Art.
Courtesy of the Yamatane Museum of Art, I am able to introduce to you some of the highlights of the exhibition (please click to enlarge to enjoy them in greater detail).
The exhibition is dedicated to the Japanese love for the changing seasons – represented by a bounty of blossoms, flowers and nature’s delights. From the elegant world of flowers, created by Hōitsu Sakai, to the vivid presentation of rich colours by Kiitsu Suzuki – even after centuries, these works of art of the Rimpa school still astonish us with their abundance of colour.
Hōitsu Sakai ( 酒井 抱一) (1761 – 1828):
The Moon and Plum Trees, Color on Silk, Edo Period, 19th Century, Yamatane Museum of Art
A red plum tree appears nestled among the long branches of a white plum, while the full moon seems to peek between their upper branches. The combination of the moon and plum trees was one of Hōitsu’s favorite subjects. Several such works, with sumi black as the underlying tone but varying compositions, are extant. To depict the moon, he used the sotoguma ink painting technique. The kindei (gold paint) is applied not to the moon itself but its exterior. The gold paint was, however, placed quite thinly, suggesting that Hōitsu was taking great pains over the faint moonlight.
Hōitsu Sakai ( 酒井 抱一) (1761 – 1828):
Chrysanthemums with Bird, Color on Silk, Edo Period, 19th Century, Yamatane Museum of Art
Hōitsu was in his sixties, he created a series of bird-and-flower paintings for the twelve months of the year based on poems on that theme for each month by the Kamakura period poet Fujiwara no Teika. Multiple sets of paintings on the same theme have been confirmed. Kameda Ryōrai, a scholar of the Chinese classics, provided the inscription for one of series, and our museum owns 2 paintings of this set. Others in the series are in the Feinberg Collection and the Freer Gallery of Art in the United State, etc. The September painting, No. 13, depicts chrysanthemums, a subject associated with the Chrysanthemum Festival, one of the traditional five seasonal festivals, on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, together with a red-flanked bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus) perched on a chrysanthemum stalk and displaying its white breast.
Kiitsu Suzuki (鈴木 其一) (1796–1858):
Peonies, Color on Silk, Edo Period, 1851, Yamatane Museum of Art
This painting depicts three colors of peony blossoms in all their glory. Here, however, instead of a characteristically Rimpa style with simplified petals and the use of tarashikomi on the stems, we see a clear, careful depiction down to the fine details, suggesting the style of Chinese court painters. As one of the few extant works by Kiitsu inscribed with a date, this work is especially rare and valuable.
Kiitsu Suzuki (鈴木 其一) (1796–1858):
Birds and Flowers of the Four Seasons, Color on Gold-Leafed Paper, Edo Period, 19th Century, Yamatane Museum of Art
This painting includes not a single tree. Instead, on the right-hand screen we see rape blossoms, violets, dandelions, sunflowers, morning glories and other spring and summer flowers, with a couple of chickens and their chicks. The left-hand screen includes chrysanthemums, burnets, silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis), golden lace (Patrinia scabiosifolia), narcissus, and other plants associated with fall and winter, with a pair of mandarin ducks. While the subject is the four seasons, Kiitsu has chosen summer and autumn plants favored by Rimpa school artists as the main elements. The plump lines in pale ink and the use of the tarashikomi technique to render plants tenderly in pooled, blurred colors follow the Rimpa style, transmitted from Kōrin to Hōitsu and then to Kiitsu. The lively color combinations and the depiction of the birds down to the last detail, with skillful use of color, reveal, however, Kiitsu’s modern sensibility, with clarity having priority over sentiment.
Chokunyū Tanomura (田能村直入), (1814–1907):
A Hundred Flowers, Color on Silk, Meiji Period, 1869, Yamatane Museum of Art
This scroll painting depicts one hundred seasonal flowers and grasses in the sesshi (cut-branch) style. The annotation at the end of the scroll, which gives it the air of a botanical study, says, “I was asked to paint one hundred flowers for the feudal lord, but since I forgot to include quite a few, I have made a careful study of seasonal flowers and grasses for this scroll and included their names below.” The technique emulates the flower and bird paintings done in the realistic “boneless” style (mokkotsu), a technique in which objects are rendered without lines, of Qing dynasty China. Still, the rich coloring and teeming plant life express the character of Chokunyū’s work.
Taikan Yokoyama (横山大観) (1868-1958):
Mountain Cherry Trees, Color on Silk, Shōwa Period, 1934, Yamatane Museum of Art
Kokei Kobayashi (小林古径) (1883-1957):
Bird and Evergreen Magnolia, Color on Silk, Shōwa Period, 1935, Yamatane Museum of Art
Togyū Okumura (奥村土牛) (1889-1990):
Cherry Blossoms at Daigo-ji Temple, Color on Paper, Shōwa Period, 1972, Yamatane Museum of Art
This painting depicts the cherry blossoms of Daigo-ji temple in Kyoto, famous as the spot at which Toyotomi Hideyoshi held a lavish cherry-blossom-viewing banquet. Togyū visited Daigo-ji on the sixth anniversary of the death of his teacher, Kobayashi Kokei and, feeling that its weeping cherry trees were extraordinarily beautiful, decided he wished to paint them. For the front-facing cherry blossoms’ petals, he carefully applied dozens of layers of dilute paint to produce a sense of the plump, pale pink flowers’ mass. This work, created when Togyū was 83, combines elegance, tranquility, and gentleness.
Address of the Museum:
Yamatane Museum of Art
3-12-36 Hiro-o, Shibuya-ku
Opening hours of the Museum:
Open daily, except on Mondays (closed on the day after a national holiday) from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (last admission at 4:30 pm).
The current exhibition is held from 22 April 2017 to 18 June 2017.
For the exhibition “A World of Flowers – from the Rimpa School to Contemporary Art”
Adults: 1,000  Yen
University and High School Students: 800  Yen
Middle School and younger children: free of charge
*Figures in brackets are for groups of 20 or more, advance tickets, and those who are wearing kimono.
*Disability ID holders and one person accompanying them are admitted free of charge.
How to get there:
Take the lines of Japan Rail (JR) or the Tōkyō Metro Hibiya line to Ebisu (恵比寿 / えびす) and head in eastern direction towards the Meiji Dōri (明治通り / めいじどおり). Cross the Meiji Dōri in north-eastern direction and follow the right side of the street for some hundred metres (passing the “Ebisu Prime Square” and the impressive building of “Papas Company”).
And since you want to be a good citizen, here are some of the rules you want to adhere to, when you visit the Yamatane Museum of Art:
- Do not touch the artworks and cases.
- Hold the hand of young children.
- Keep quite in the gallery.
- Do not run in the gallery.
- No photographing, video recording, or copying the artworks in the gallery.
- When taking notes in the gallery, use pencils only – no pens, no ink.
- Swith off your mobile phone in the gallery.
- No eating or drinking in the gallery (that includes water, candy and chewing gums).
- No smoking anywhere in the museum.