Light washes of ink form the trunk and branches of the plum tree, and the blossoms themselves are done with abbreviated brush strokes. The remaining surface of the screen is filled with the gold-lead ground.
Blossoming plum trees are one of the heralds of the arrival of spring. Low screens such as this might have been placed around bedding at night. The painting is designed to fit the shape of the screen, so that it works successfully both when folded at sharp angles and when flat.
Azuma Tōyō (1755-1839) was born in Mutsu province, in the far north of Japan, and studied painting in Edo (modern Tokyo) under Kanō Baishō (1729-1808). In Kyoto, under the influence of the great painters Yosa Buson (1716-83), Maruyama ōkyo (1733-95), and Go Shun (1752-1811), Tōyō's style changed, and he developed into a painter of the Maruyama-Shijō school, which practised sketching from life and more naturalistic depiction.
The signature reads ‘Tōyō' and the seal also reads 'Tōyō'.