Early 20th Century Japanese Screen Pair – Ink Pine Trees on Gold



Imai Keiju (1891-1967)

Pine Trees

Early 20th Century, Circa 1930

Pair of six-panel Japanese screens. Ink on silk and gold leaf.

Dimensions: Each screen H. 67.5” x 148” (172 cm x 376 cm)

Price: USD 35,000

A pair of monumental six-panel Japanese pine screens by Imai Keiju, the son-in-law of Imao Keinen. Here Keiju entirely removed the background and brought the pine trees to the surface of the painting. This simplification of the elements makes the scene exceptionally direct and compelling and injects a very modern feel into the screens, which are extraordinary for their technical virtuosity. The work is both majestic and delicate, with Keiju’s exquisite brushwork defining the complex and visually stunning scene. The bright gold of the screens and the rich black of the ink demonstrate a magnificent visual power. Keiju’s complete and meticulous control of the ink is made possible by the design of the folding screens themselves. The fronts are first laid with silk before gold leaf is layered on top, allowing artists a highly refined silk canvas with all the visual benefits of the gold leaf.

Imai Keiju was born in Mie Prefecture in 1891 and graduated from the Kyoto Prefectural School of Painting after the turn of the century. From a young age Keiju was recognized as a very skillful painter and he went to study with the renowned Shijo school artist Imao Keinen. Keiju married Keinen’s daughter and was adopted into the family, taking Keinen’s ‘Kei’ character for his own painting name. Under Keinen’s influence he too became a master of bird and flower painting and he became an important and representative modern Nihonga painter during the Japanese Showa period. Together with his father-in-law Keinen, who was an Imperial Household Artist, he painted the pine tree screens that served as the backdrop to Emperor Showa at his enthronement ceremony in 1928. The pair of screens being offered here date to a very similar time.