Spring plum and birds. Framed Japanese painting by Yamaguchi Sekkei (1644-1732).



Yamaguchi Sekkei (1644-1732)  山口雪渓

Spring plum and birds

Framed panel, ink and gold fleck on paper


W. 54 cm x H. 128 cm (21” x 50”)

Price: USD 6,800

A framed Japanese panel depicting a pair of birds on an ancient and twisted plum tree. The delicate blossoms indicate the very beginnings of spring. Painted in ink on paper, the painting is understated and elegant, the brushwork extremely refined. Two tones of delicate gold flecks (tsunago) enliven the scene to life and and allow its mood to alter depending on the time of day and the prevailing light conditions.

Rather than painting in the prevailing styles of his time, Yamaguchi Sekkei created an entirely unique style which was compared by Okakura Tenshin to the individualism of Soga Shohaku, Ito Jakuchu and Watanabe Shiko. This unique style was fueled by his fascination with Muromachi era ink paintings, in particular works inspired by the Chinese artist Muqi and his contact with works by the Japanese master Sesshu Toyo. His loyalty to the styles of previous ages earned him great respect and praise from his contemporaries. 

It is said that he was originally taught by Hasegawa Sakon (1593~), the fourth son of Hasegawa Tohaku, and also Kano Eino of the Kyoto Kano school. It is debatable whether he learned directly from Hasegawa Sakon due to their respective ages, though one of his masterpieces “Autumn Maples”  from Daigo-ji temple, is unmistakably painted in the Hasegawa school style. That pair of screens are registered as an Important Cultural Property and were part of the Old Japanese Art exhibition which traveled to Germany in 1939. Among his other masterpieces is a painting of Buddha’s Nirvana held at Kiyomizu-dera temple and his ink landscape paintings on the sliding doors of Genkoan temple in Kyoto. His works adorn the walls and halls of more than 15 temples in and around Kyoto, attesting to the reverence with which he was held.