Love & Lust

Birds and Flowers of the Twelve Months

Birds and Flowers of the Twelve Months – Sakai Hōitsu (Japanese, 1761–1828)

“Birds and flowers of the various seasons were favorite subjects for early Rinpa painters. Sets of twelve paintings on this theme were often based upon the collection of twelve poems Waka on Birds and Flowers of the Twelve Months (Teika-ei jūnikagetsu kachō waka) composed by the court poet Fujiwara no Teika (1162–1241). Hōitsu’s twelve paintings, however, do not adhere to such a classical model, but offer instead more freely conceived seasonal combinations of flowering trees, plants, birds, and insects. This set is unusual in that each painting includes a living animal, bird, or insect in addition to its seasonal plants. Though Hōitsu repeatedly painted the same plants for each month, his choice of a chinaberry (Japanese: sendan) with round green fruits for the tenth-month painting is unique to this set. Five other complete sets of Birds and Flowers of the Twelve Months by Hōitsu are known. The set displayed here was formerly owned by Kaiyūji Temple in Maebashi, once patronized by the Sakai family to which the artist belonged.”


Tiger – Tawaraya Sōtatsu (Japanese, died ca. 1640)

“The softness and calm seen in this rendering of a tiger quietly licking its forepaw would become a hallmark of Rinpa ink paintings of animals or Buddhist and Daoist sages, in distinct contrast to the brightly colored compositions of floral or arboreal themes. The pale and seemingly hazy fur on this monochrome tiger may at first appear to have been brushed in a rather casual manner, but close examination shows that a vast number of the animal’s hairs have been minutely painted one by one. Meanwhile the stripes, legs, paws, and mouth have been indicated with full, moist lines. The soft application of ink and the rounded style that artists used to depict tigers, not an animal native to Japan, result in a gentle, even adorable, feline species. Ogata Kōrin’s version of the subject was preserved in One Hundred Paintings by Kōrin (Kōrin hyakuzu), compiled by Edo Rinpa masters Sakai Hōitsu and Suzuki Kiitsu.”