Konoshima Okoku (1877-1938) | Pine & Plover | Japanese screen pair

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Price: USD 23000 the pair

A pair of six-fold Japanese screens by Konoshima Okoku, which date back to the early part of his career and reference the works of Keinen, his teacher.

Painted with an emphasis on shasei (drawing from life), the painting portrays pine trees along a shore, bent as a result of strong wind. It is an evocative spatial expression notable for its confident, fluid brushwork. Despite Okoku’s elimination of excessive details and background, he created a tangible sense of space with a skilful gradation of ink tones. On the right screen, the shoreline’s surface is presented by soft washes of ink, while, on the left screen, the upper reaches of a pair of pines peak through waves of mist. The tree branches appear to defy the elements by reaching out to each other over the expansive divide, forming an intimate bond between the screens. Plovers gliding freely and gracefully on gusts of wind create a sense of perpetual movement. Although the screens were painted early in his career, we can easily see the attention that Okoku placed on establishing lifelike creatures.

Okoku was born in Kyoto in 1877. Originally enrolled in an industrial school, Okoku left the school at a young age to fulfil his strong desire to become an artist. Following his departure from the industrial school, he entered the studio of the noted Shijo-school artist Imao Keinen. As a strongly independent character and an artist with a distinctive and personal painting style, Okoku often found it difficult to break the strong public connection between himself and Keinen. As a painter of great vitality, he exhibited at Japanese national painting exhibitions consistently from 1897 through to 1932. His most famed works are pairs of six-fold screens, where a sense of silence envelops naturalistic scenes. From 1912, Okoku taught painting at the Kyoto Municipal Arts and Crafts School. A year later, he joined the Bunten judging committee as Keinen’s successor. By the late 1920’s, Okoku was facing regular criticism for being unresponsive to changes in the painting world and constraints of the public who favoured his animal paintings over other topics. He took his own life in 1938.