Plum Blossoms | Kawakami Koritsu (1869-1957) | Japanese folding screen pair



Plum Blossoms

Kawakami Koritsu  (1869-1957)  川上 鴻立

Pair of six-fold screens, ink and gold leaf on paper.

Painting inscriptions: Koritsu  鴻立

Painting seals: Koritsu  鴻立

Early 20th century. Circa 1910/1920


376 cm x 181 cm (148” x 71”)

Price: USD 32000 the pair

This dramatic pair of screens features images of flowering plum blossom trees reaching across an expansive gold leaf background. Paintings of blossoming plum branches and trees offered scholar artists excellent opportunities to demonstrate the calligraphic flair of their brushwork. The strong diagonal composition is unified across the two screens, though each can be displayed equally effectively individually. Contrasting strokes of dark and light monochromatic ink add a sense of depth and three dimensionality to the plum trees; their crisp, clear forms accentuated by the reflective negative space of the gold leaf. The brush-work is vigorous and unerring, combining numerous calligraphic painting techniques to form the complex, yet harmonious forms of the flowering trees.

Plum blossoms had multiple connotations in Chinese and Japanese cultures, making the paintings highly suitable as symbolic expressions. As one of the earliest spring-flowering trees, plum branches could symbolise rejuvenation and vitality. Because the tree was hardy and long lived, its branches also signified endurance and perseverance. In other contexts, the delicate white blossoms were often associated with purity and feminine gracefulness. The natural beauty of the light coloured plum blossom contrasted against the dark, twisted and gnarled form of the tree has also been taught within Zen Buddhism to represent the possibility for something positive to emerge out of something negative.

Paintings of plums executed in ink developed as a genre of painting, particularly associated with scholars and scholar painting, during the late Northern Song period under the influence of Chinese master painters such as Huaguang Zhongren, Yang Wujiu, Wang Mian and Liu Shiru. From China the genre was transplanted to Japan and Korea.

Kawakami Koritsu (1869-1957) was well known for his paintings of plum blossoms. From a young age he began studying with his father, Kakuritsu. His father was a scholar and artist and he taught his son Buddhism, Chinese studies and painting. Koritsu later moved to China to study painting. When he returned to Japan he lived in Fukuoka and became dedicated to research on plum trees. He was acknowledged as an expert in the field.