Egrets and Crows

Shibata Zeshin Japanese

Not on view

The two panels of this brilliant gold-leaf screen display contrasting scenes of two egrets at rest and three crows in flight, with white and black forms counterbalancing each other to mesmerizing effect. The white color of the egrets was accomplished by cutting out the gold-leaf layer and exposing the paper, a technique the artist used on other examples of avian painting. Shibata Zeshin was predominantly known as a master lacquer craftsman, and also incorporated the technique into his paintings. Here, the lacquer employed in place of ink adds a rich, black sheen to the surface. This tour-de-force composition, originally mounted on two separate framed wooden panels, pictorially blends elements of the Maruyama-Shijō school, in which Zeshin first trained, with features of Rinpa art.

Egrets and Crows, Shibata Zeshin (Japanese, 1807–1891), Individual panels remounted as a two-panel folding screen; colored lacquer, white pigment, and gold leaf on paper, Japan

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