Hawks on Plum & Pine
Soga Nichokuan (active ca 1625-60)
Pair of six-fold screens.
Ink, mineral pigments, gofun, gold and speckled gold leaf on paper.
Upper seal: Hoin
Lower seal: Nichokuan
Each screen: 171.5 cm x 376 cm (67.5” x 148”)
Price: USD 85,000
The combination of pine trees and hawks was a favourite subject of Japanese warrior-patrons from the 15th century on. Such representations painted on large screens or panels made impressive backdrops in main reception rooms. The painter of these screens, Soga Nichokuan, specialized in painting hawks, as did his father Soga Chokuan.
This pair of screens feature hawks on plum and pine trees, referencing winter and summer. They are painted on a paper ground which exhibits both gold wash and speckled gold leaf, which fills the pictorial surface and gives the effect of a bright and boundless atmosphere. The hawks have a dignified silhouette, their features carefully portrayed with jewel-like precision. The rock formations are textured with broad, parallel brush strokes. The clear, concise geometrical composition is counterbalanced with clusters of flowering camellias and hibiscus, which further emphasize the seasonal nature of the screens. The pine branches are characterized by their eccentric, knobbly forms. The plum tree is bent to form bold curves and its broken branches end abruptly with a broad sweep of the brush. This screen pair shares strong similarities with a pair of Nichokuan screens held at Kousanji (Kosan-ji) temple in Hiroshima prefecture and a pair of Nichokuan screens held at the Shimane Art Museum.
Each screen bears two seals reading Hoin and Nichokuan. Both of these seals are well-known. Soga Nichokuan was a highly respected and talented artist whose works are preserved in major temples throughout the Kansai region of Japan to this day. Nichokuan was succeeded by a number of painters, including Sanchokuan and Tamura Chokuou. Paintings by Soga Nichokuan are held at Daitoku-ji temple in Kyoto, Fumon-in in Wakayama, and Kosan-ji and Choen-ji in Hiroshima. Works by both Chokuan and Nicokuan are also preserved at a number of temples on Mount Koya in Wakayama. The pair of screens by Nichokuan held at Daitoku-ji temple is registered as an Important Cultural Property. In 1989, an important exhibition with an accompanying catalogue was held in Nara. It was dedicated to the screen and scroll paintings of Soga Chokuan and Nichokuan. Paintings of Soga Chokuan and Nichokuan; Elizabeth Ann Lillehoj, Nara Prefectural Museum of Art (1989).