Two-panel Japanese Screen, 1954 Inten Exhibition. Nihonga, June Irises.



Kokaku Ouya (1911-1966)



Two-panel Japanese screen. Mineral pigments on paper.


H. 228cm x W. 176 cm (90” x 69.5”)

Price: USD 28,000

In this early Postwar Nihonga painting title ‘June’ a field of blooming irises fills the expansive picture plane. The work is a unification of the realistic and the decorative; relying in sketching from nature and melding it with simplified forms and clear colors. The artist has highlighted chalk white, lilac and deep royal purple against a palette of subdued greens. Spots of bright yellow unify the flower field.

The strong sense of vertical composition, and indeed the subject matter are strongly reminiscent of Fukuda Heihachiro’s ‘Irises’. Painted in 1934 this work was recently exhibited at the National Museum of Asian Art in Washington as part of the Sotatsu exhibition. Heihachiro freely acknowledged that his concept of a flattened, pure-form decorative style flowed from the Rinpa masters Sotatsu and Korin. The irises as subject matter are a clear homage to a famous screen painting by Ogata Korin.

Originally presented as an enormous hanging scroll at the 1954 national Inten exhibition (Japan Art Institute Exhibition), we have had this work converted into a two-fold screen. The thick application of pigments were ultimately unsuitable to the rolling and unrolling of the hanging scroll; and its sheer size, weight and fragility made it very difficult to safely present. Its conversion into a folding screen, which is not uncommon in Japanese art, ensures the preservation and continued enjoyment of the work of art.

The Nihon Bijutsuin (Japan Art Institute) oversees the Inten exhibition. It was originally founded in 1898 by Okakura Tenshin. It was shut down temporarily but was revived in 1914 by Yokoyama Taikan. It was originally founded as a protest against the stylistic restrictions of the government-sponsored ‘Bunten’ exhibitions. Originally devoted to Nihonga (Japanese painting), in 1920 separate sections were established for Japanese sculpture and western-style painting (Yoga). These separate sections were abolished in 1960, and the Institute has since been devoted exclusively to Nihonga painting.

Kokaku Ouya was born in Niigata Prefecture. He moved to Tokyo and studied Nihonga painting under Kodama Kibo and later Seihyo Tanaka. Prewar he exhibited a few times with the national Bunten organization. After the war he became an associate of the Nihon Bijutsuin (Japan Art Institute) and regularly exhibited there.