Willow and Sparrows | Japanese Taisho era framed silk painting | Circa 1920




Willow and sparrows

Taisho period, circa 1920

Framed painting. Mineral pigments, mica, gold, ink and gofun on silk.

Dimensions (framed):

H. 98 cm x W. 135 cm (38.5” x 53”)

Price: USD 14,500

This Japanese nihonga painting depicts sparrows sheltering in a willow tree that overflows the pictorial space. In Japan the willow is intimately associated with high summer and what is conveyed here is the respite from overwhelming heat which the lush green tree provides.

Extremely bold in its minimalist palette of greens and browns this classic nihonga image is both unmistakably modern and quintessentially Japanese. Painted on silk, the beautiful emerald greens are made of finely ground malachite mineral mixed with animal glue as an adhesive. Tiny silver flecks of mica have then been mixed with the green pigment to further enhance its glow. The open background areas have been painted with gold, highlighting the fierceness of the sun. The applied layers of malachite pigments have been built-up in individual strokes in a technique approximating oil painting. Nihonga artists experimented with such approaches to counter the perception of the time that Japanese art was flat. The branches have been done in a somewhat indefinite style of brushwork, doing away with the strong outlines that previously characterized Japanese art and using wash techniques so that colors and tones seem to melt into one another without overly perceptible transitions and edges.

As with the best nihonga of the period, the artist has seamlessly incorporated elements of Western influence into their work while remaining true to the ideals of historical Japanese art, materials and techniques. The work is unsigned and unsealed. This is likely the result of the painting being made specifically for presentation at one of the many exhibitions which proliferated during the late 1910s and early 1920s. The silk painting is mounted on a panel, the frame of roiro mirror-polished, black lacquer. Conservation, mounting and framing was carried out in Kyoto utilizing traditional techniques and craftsmen.