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Heron and Spring Willows; Magpies in Autumn

Matsumura Goshun18th Century

Kyoto National Museum

Kyoto National Museum
Kyoto, Japan

The first screen portrays a flock of magpies resting in dried trees in late autumn, while the second shows a heron taking flight from luxuriant willows on the banks of a river in late spring. The two screens are a study in contrasts: the first, a study of the chilly dry winds of autumn as they blow, while the second is of the mists as they rise in the humid warmth of a spring day. Scholars believe that these screens were painted soon after the artist moved from Kyoto to Ikeda, when he assumed the name Goshun. In executing the relaxed and free yet strikingly extended lines of the rocks and the pointillism technique for the willow leaves that has been combined with Buson’s use of shade, Goshun’s brush scampers over the silk with a lively rhythm resembling the tips of branches, and the birds overflow with vitality. The screens are the works of a master and reflect his joy in the act of painting.
Goshun studied under Yosa Buson (1716–1783) and then Maruyama Ōkyo (1733–1795) before developing his own style. The Kyoto clientele with their desire for refined works enthusiastically received his light and easy, if unconventional, style. One group, known as the Shijō school, the members of which all lived close to Shijō Avenue, and the Maruyama school transmitted their traditions to present day Japanese painting. Goshun was the founder of the Shijō school, and his role in the history of Japanese painting is unquestionably important.

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