Pomegranate & Small Birds
Moriyama Kouho (b.1883) 森山 香浦
Late Meiji/early Taisho era, circa 1910.
Two-panel Japanese Screen. Ink, gofun and pigment on silk and gold leaf.
Sign: Kouho 香浦
Upper; Ki 驥
Lower; Kouho 香浦
H. 171 cm x W. 174 cm (67.5” x 68.5”)
Price: USD 28,000
This rare two-panel Japanese folding screen sits within the broad lineage of literati bird and flower painting associated with Tsubaki Chinzan and Taki Katei. It is a richly coloured work executed in opaque pigments on a golden silk ground. The artist, Kouho, has used the ‘boneless’ technique in which the colour creates its own outlines rather than being confined by black ink contours. Kouho’s style is based on supple and flexible brushwork and a harmonized, warm palette. Being both painted on silk, and utilizing the boneless technique, each and every brushstroke is final and unconditional. Its realization would have required enormous concentration, skill and time. At the time of this painting, at the very end of the Meiji period, the Japanese art world was being divided into the camps of modernist Japanese painting (Nihonga) and Western oil painting (Yoga). There seemed little room for the traditional Sinophile leanings of the literati. This work, inspired by classical Chinese culture and brushwork and painted on a modern silk screen covered with gold leaf, is both ambitious and stunning.
It is thought that the pomegranate had made its way to China from the Mideast by the 3rd century, and on to Japan by the 8th century. Due to the proliferation of seeds in pomegranates, fertility and offspring are simulated visually. In the Chinese language, the word ‘pomegranate’ is homophonous with the word ‘generation’, which reinforces the visual suggestion of generations of offspring.
Moriyama Kouho, real name Moriyama Kizaburo 森山 驥三郎. Kouho was originally a student of Murakoshi Joran before moving to Tokyo and studying under Furusawa Setsuden. Setsuden was a student of Taki Katei. He was born in Chiba prefecture in 1883. His works were displayed at the 3rd and 12th national Teiten exhibitions.