The first, Crane and Deer, loaned by the Seikado Bunko Art Museum in Tokyo, is an important work by Ogata Kōrin (1658-1716), one of the leading painters of this school in the seventeenth century. His work was particularly original as he avoided any Chinese or other influences and Kōrin is highly appreciated for his remarkable colour and almost Impressionist technique, making use of simple, idealised forms and a pronounced lack of interest in realism, tending towards abstraction. Kōrin’s designs were widely disseminated given that he also painted on lacquer and designed clothing and ceramics with his brother Ogata Kenzan. Crane and Deer is a large composition of a deer with a flowering cherry tree and a crane next to a maple tree. It thus represents the cycle of the seasons from spring to autumn. It is a particularly good example of this artist’s virtuoso ability to convey tones of white, which is one of his distinguishing features.
Sakai Hōitsu, who painted Plants and Flowers of the Four Seasons and a Stream from the Tokyo National Museum, was a great admirer of Ogata Kōrin and was known for imitating his compositions and style. Hōitsu (1761-1828) was another artist of the Rimpa School. His work clearly reveals an interest in ukiyo-e prints (images of the fleeting pleasures of life among the urban classes in Japan in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) and in particular in the work of the great printmaker Utagawa Toyoharu. Hōitsu’s screen on display here falls within the period of his work executed after 1797 when he had become a Buddhist monk and was studying the work of both Ogata Kōrin and his brother, making copies of their compositions. Painted in bright, un-shaded colours, this screen, comprising four leaves painted with running water, plants and flowers that represent the cycle of the four seasons, is characterised by its realism and highly refined sense of beauty.