Twisted Pines | Japanese screen pair by Suzuki Shonen (1848-1918)



Suzuki Shonen (1848-1918)

Meiji period (1868-1912), late 19th century.

Twisted pines

Pair of six-fold screens. Ink on a gold leaf ground.


Right screen: Shonen Senshi  Sha  松年 僊史 寫

Left screen: Shonen Sha  松年 寫

Seal: Shonen  松年


Each screen measures: W. 380 cm x H. 174 cm (150” x 68.5”)

Price: USD 34,000

Suzuki Shonen was one of the leading Japanese artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Shonen had many powerful patrons, and his works were often lavishly mounted and frequently included personal motifs woven into the brocade fabrics. Shonen never worked from preliminary sketches (shita-e), but painted quickly and directly, in a bold, individual style. Shonen’s great technical skill in handling ink tonalities and striking brushwork became the signal features of his style. One of his most common themes was the pine tree, the “Sho” in his name, Shonen, being the Japanese character for “pine.”

This pair of pine screens date to earlier in the artist’s career. His ink and brush styles were eclectic, drawing upon literati, Kano and Maruyama/Shijo school styles. Here he utilises the strong black outlines and broad brush of the Kano school, while refraining from the forcefulness of his later work. The pine trees are brought to the front of the composition and focus the viewer on the two-dimensional plane. The thinly outlined ground and minimalistic waterfall serve to heighten the monumentality of the towering pines. Their great age is expressed through their thick trunks, which Shonen contrasts dramatically to the angular branches and the sharply delineated needles. Slight changes of lighting allow full expression of the extraordinary visual impact of the scene, which has been painted on radiant, hand-beaten gold leaf. The brocade has been woven with bats among clouds.

Pairs of six-fold pine screens by the artist are held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.