Monday, January 2, 2012

Maruyama, Ōkyo

Snow and Pine trees
Ink and colors on paper, a pair of six-fold screens
The Mitsui Memorial Museum, Tokyo, Japan

Maruyama, Ōkyo (1733 – 1795) was a Japanese master painter active in the late 18th century. Although born into a farming family, he showed an early talent for drawing. His parents, after trying unsuccessfully to have him become a monk, apprenticed him first to a clothing shop in Kyoto and then to a toymaker there, for whom he painted dolls. Ōkyo frequented a cosmetics shop for which he designed accessories, and it was at the instigation of the shop's customers that he undertook formal training as a painter.

Pine Trees in Snow, executed for the wealthy Mitsui family, is realistic despite being in the Japanese idiom of ink on a gold background. Two six-panel screens show tree bark and pine needles separated by differing brush strokes, and the white snow seems to weigh down the branches. The bark is painted in the tsuketate technique, which uses no outlines, just dark and light shades to create the illusion of volume.