Two-panel folding screen remounted as a hanging scroll; ink and light color on paper
Image: 56 11/16 x 61 3/4 in. (144 x 156.8 cm)
John C. Weber Collection
Not on view
A red-crested crane stands alongside a Chinese sage, sheltered from the cold by his master’s commodious cloak. The setting is late winter or early spring, just as plum blossoms are budding, ready to burst into bloom. The ink brushwork outlining the sage’s traveling robes and headwear is calligraphic in strength and energy. The presence of a crane and a gnarled branch of plum signals that this man of tranquil countenance is Lin Bu (967–1028), a noted Northern Song poet and literatus who took refuge on an island in West Lake, near Hangzhou. After he died, he was given the name Lin Hejing, meaning “Grove of Harmony”; in Japanese he is commonly referred to as Rinnasei. Counted among the great recluse-poets of the Chinese tradition, Lin Hejing was famous for his love of plum blossoms and for keeping a pair of pet cranes. In Japan he came to be viewed as a poetic immortal, and from medieval through early modern times was a favorite painting subject, in both elite and popular art.
The signature on the painting identifies the artist as Kaihō Yūshō (1533–1615), yet we can assume the seal and signature were added at a later date. Nevertheless, the skillful brushwork bespeaks an artist of the early seventeenth century trained in the Kano technique but able to work in a less academic, more fluid style.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Birds in the Art of Japan," February 2, 2013–July 28, 2013.