Rustling in the Grass: Japanese Bird, Flower and Animal Painting
For centuries, Japanese official residences have featured scenes of birds, flowers and animals (kachoga), rife with metaphorical significance. Representing strength, royal magnificence, paradisiacal wonder, peace and plenitude, such paintings filled the meeting halls of samurai homes and castles, imperial palaces, and temples. Many of these paintings remain in situ in historical buildings throughout Japan.
The installation this spring at LACMA includes paintings and decorative arts made for the imperial family and related nobility done in the native styleyamato-e manner. These are often filled with seasonal references, featuring birds and flowers considered symbolic of specific months. Also on view are examples that reveal the influence of Chinese styles, stemming from increased contact between Japan and China in the 13th through 15th centuries. Later examples from the 17th century on reveal the tastes of the merchant class, who came to patronize artists who represented their aesthetics and interests. Paintings from the Maruyama and Shijo ateliers in a naturalistic manner reflected a burgeoning interest in empirical science, while the work of artists of the Rimpa tradition are elegant and decorative. Appreciation for the classic beauty of bird and flower subjects has continued through the 20th and into the 21st century with paintings in the nihonga(Japanese painting) style.
Image: Mori Sosen (Japan, 1747–1821) Six Animals, Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk, Image: 37 ¼ x 13 ½ in.; Mount: 67 ¾ x 18 ¼ in. Gift of Camilla Chandler Frost, Photograph © 2011 Museum Associates/LACMA, M.2011.8