Pair of hanging scrolls. Ink, pigment and gofun on silk.
Each scroll: H. 215 cm x W. 71 cm (84.5” x 28”)
Each image: H. 138 cm x W. 55 cm (54” x 21.5”)
In this Taisho period Nihonga painting the artist depicts a singular and soaring dahlia bush sheltering a hen from the heat of summer. The foliage, flowers and hen are all accurately observed and delineated yet the atmosphere of the scene is somehow tenuous and ethereal. The soft, feathery outlines and the consistent opacity of the applied pigments gives the work the sense of a dreamlike state. The labyrinth of leaves and stems and the blurred and hazy pigments create an illusion of three-dimensionality which is quite breathtaking. Perhaps the artist was influenced by European Romanticism. The liberal arts of the Japanese Taisho period were often inspired by newly available access to Western arts and ideals. Dahlias were an exotic subject favored by painters of the Taisho era. Dahlia bulbs were first imported into Japan in the early Meiji era. By the Taisho period the flowers were passionately cultivated by ardent gardeners, who developed new species and held competitions all over Japan.
This work was first exhibited in 1923 at the Osaka Fine Art Exhibition. This exhibition ran from 1915 through to 1925 and exhibited works selected from both the Taisho Fine Art Exhibition and the Tsukushi Exhibition. Its aim was to showcase the avant-garde of Osaka painting. The artist Kitano Tsunetomi was the driving force behind the exhibition.
A book published in 1992 titled ‘Taisho Nihonga’ discussed the exhibition and also published images of some of the exhibited works, including this work titled ‘Dahlias’. The name of the painter is Kawamura Tadao. Nothing is known of the artist now. The spurious signature and seal of Fukuda Heihachiro was a later addition. The painting was originally presented as a two-fold screen. Most recently it has been re-presented in its current format as a pair of hanging scrolls. It is not unusual for Japanese paintings, particularly from earlier eras, to be remounted from one format to another.