Wagtail & Chrysanthemum | Japanese tea-ceremony screen by Ishizaki Koyo (1884-1947)



Ishizaki Koyo (1884-1947)  石崎光瑤

Wagtail & Chrysanthemum

Early 20th Century

Folding screen in two-panels. Ink, pigments and gofun on gold leaf.

Sign: Koyo  光瑤

Seal: Koyo  光瑤


H. 55 cm x W. 172 cm (21.5” x 67.5”)

Price: USD 14,500

This small two-panel folding screen (furosaki byobu) was made for use during the Japanese tea-ceremony. In keeping with the seasonal representation of flowering chrysanthemums, the screen would have been displayed and enjoyed during the fall season. The painter, Ishizaki Koyo, was a prodigiously talented artist who specialized in vivid and decorative flower and bird paintings based on realism. Here, on a luminous gold-leaf ground, he has captured a wagtail resting under a spray of wild chrysanthemums. The overarching curvature of the branch and the abundance of small blooms provide an ideal shelter for the bird. An unidentified creeping vine with its broadly washed leaves and tiny purple flowers grounds and counterbalances the delicate composition. 

The representation of wagtails in Japanese art traces its origins back to the 14th century when Zen monks painted birds and flowers in ink. Small and seemingly insignificant birds were often painted to flank images of Zen deities or patriarchs as part of a devotional triptych. These moving ink images of unassuming, though profoundly intense beings had strong Zen overtones. Perhaps Ishizaki Koyo, in this small screen made for contemplation during the tea-ceremony, was alluding to something more than a fleeting moment of nature.

The screen has been conserved and fully re-mounted in Kyoto utilizing traditional techniques and craftsmen.

Ishizaki Koyo (1884-1947) originally studied under the Rimpa artist Yamamoto Koichi, before moving to Kyoto to study at the atelier of Takeuchi Seiho in 1893. He was a constant exhibitor with the prestigious national Bunten and Teiten, eventually becoming a judge. His masterworks of the Taisho era rival any paintings of the period and were duly awarded. A frequent international traveler, he gained inspiration from visits to both India and Europe. He was also an avid photographer and mountaineer. He went on to become a professor at the Kyoto Municipal Special School of Painting.