The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were an inspired time for artists in Japan, who sought to infuse their traditions with modernity while retaining an essential Japanese spirit. At the forefront were artists of the 'nihonga' school, experimenting with new techniques, often inspired by Western perspective and chiaroscuro. In this brilliant and unusual pair of screens, the sense of the contemporary is fused with the traditional. The emphatically rich colours of the autumnal maples, punctuated with deeper moments in red, gold and pale green, contrast with the quiet and economic aesthetic of spring cherry blossoms. The white cherry blossom is bunched at the bottom of the screen, against an expanse of gold-flecked sky and the silver-metallic ovoid shaped moon. The result is a perfect study in ambiguity: in design and imbalance, space and denseness. Kawabata Gyokushô was one of the most prominent of the 'nihonga' artists at the turn of the nineteenth century. The son of a 'maki-e' lacquer artist, he studied the Maruyama school of 'nihonga' and oil painting technique with Takahashi Yuichi, Japan's first important and influential oil painter.
Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg. 283.
Spring cherry blossoms and autumn maples
Place where the work was made
Meiji period 1868 - 1912 → Japan
early 20th century
pair of two-fold screens; ink, colour and gold dust on paper
a - left screen - maple leaves, 163.2 x 86 cm
a - left screen - maple leaves, 167 x 88 cm
b - right screen - cherry blossom and moon, 163.2 x 86 cm
b - right screen - cherry blossom and moon, 167 x 88 cm
Signature & date
Signed l.l., in Japanese ink "[artist's seal]". Not dated. [left screen]
Signed c.r., in Japanese ink "[artist's seal]". Not dated. [right screen]
Signed l.r. verso., in Japanese ink "Kawabata Gyokushô [& artist's seal]". Not dated. [left screen]
Signed l.l. vewrso., in Japanese ink "Kawabata Gyokushô [& artist's seal]". Not dated. [right screen]
D G Wilson Bequest Fund 1997
Not on display
Where the work was made
Referenced in 2 publications
Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian Collection: East Asia', pg. 246-287, Sydney, 1999, 283 (colour illus.).
Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'A New Dichotomy', Sydney, 2003, 277 (colour illus.).