Dahlias and Roosters | Tanaka Tessen (b.1890) | Taisho period silk painting.



Tanaka Tessen (b.1890)  田中 鐡千

Dahlias and Roosters

Taisho period, circa 1920

Framed painting. Mineral pigments and ink on silk.

Sign: Tessen  鐡千

Seal: Tessen  鐡千

Dimensions (framed):

H. 159 cm x W. 97 cm x D. 2.5 cm (62.5” x 38” x 1”)

Price: USD 18,000

An ornate and complex composition in which the artist explores almost the entire painting surface. The coloration is bold and evocative and the tinted silk ground recreates the warm golden glow of sunset. Soft, luminous brushwork details the black feathers of the roosters, which seem to cloud and blur in counterpoint to the sharper points of the eyes and beaks. Their brilliant red combs balance the composition, echoing the rich burgundy hues of the dahlias; the flowers exquisite and lifelike. Dahlias were an exotic subject favored by painters of the Taisho era.

The painting belongs to the school of Kyoto Nihonga, exemplifying the principles of decorative elegance and consumate brush technique with which it was intimately associated. Painters of the time relied on the Shijo school method, basing the forms of the composition from life sketches. Sometimes they were then integrated with elements derived from Chinese bird and flower paintings from the Ming period and even with aspects of French post-Impressionism. The artist here uses the varied hues of green pigment to simulate the texture and depth of oil painting. This blend of reality and decorativeness creates an unnatural, dreamlike impression which captures the progressive, creative spirit of the Taisho era (1912-1926), which was reined in with the increasing austerity of the early Showa era.

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.

Tanaka Tessen was born in Niigata prefecture in 1890. He studied painting under Takeuchi Seiho and Hashimoto Kansetsu and was based in Kyoto.