Saegusa Soko 三枝 素光
Loquat and Sparrows
Early Taisho period, circa 1910-1915
Hanging scroll painting. Mineral pigments, ink and gofun on silk
Signed: Soko 素光
Sealed: Soko 素光
Scroll: H. 221 cm x W. 103 cm (87” x 40.5”)
Image: H. 182 cm x W. 86 cm (72” x 34”)
A large modern Japanese painting (nihonga) from the early Taisho period. The bird and flower scene is painted on luxurious silk with rich mineral pigments, ink and gofun (powdered shell). Drawing inspiration from nature the artist has created an elegant design with flowing, natural forms. The harmonious colors are represented predominantly in hues of subdued greens. The scene is painted almost entirely in the foreground, with the background washed evenly with a muted tone. The scene is an idealized snapshot of nature, presented as if one was looking out through a framed window. The sense of movement is ceaseless. The flowing branches and leaves twist and turn and lead the eye; the falling petals suggest a strong autumn breeze. Two of the birds are huddled together for warmth, the third captured in flight.
The Taisho period is often considered the first era of modern Japan, when many western influences lived side by side with tradition. It was a continuation of the westernization that started during the Meiji era and arts and culture flourished as a result of the opening to western influences and technologies. There was an important evolution in painting and the duality of modernity and tradition was evident. Democratic and liberal movements became stronger and people placed more emphasis on individuality. These new values influenced the world of nihonga (modern Japanese painting). Individualism in nihonga tended to express itself in perfecting and maintaining various distinct styles that referenced traditional schools and methods. In this painting the artist utilizes the Rimpa tarashikomi brush technique. The forms of the composition were based on Shijo school life sketching which were then reinterpreted with an eye for decorative abstraction.
Loquats are unusual among fruit trees in that the flowers appear in the autumn or early winter. A favored subject of Chinese poets and painters it is less commonly referenced in Japanese art. The loquat has been cultivated in Japan for over 1,000 years and presumably the fruits and seeds were brought back from China by the many Japanese scholars visiting and studying in China during the Tang Dynasty.
Conservation and remounting of the painting was carried out in Kyoto utilizing traditional techniques and craftsmen.
Saegusa Soko (1886-1947) was born in Hida Takayama in Gifu prefecture. He studied under Odake Chikuha and specialized in bird and flower paintings. His works were exhibited at the 6th national Bunten (1912) and the 5th national Teiten (1923).