Japanese Painting: Okyo and his School in the Bird and Flower Tradition

Pavilion for Japanese Art
January 19, 2013–July 28, 2013

Maruyama Okyo’s Cranes (1772), a pair of screens that measure five and a half feet tall and twenty-two feet long, depict seventeen cranes, twelve of one species (Red-crowned Cranes), five of another (White-naped Cranes). They are shown resting, sleeping, nestling, and peering into the distance. Much copied by later Japanese artists, these paintings were revolutionary at the time Okyo painted them: there is no ground plane, no water or streams, no rocks, and no vegetation of any kind.

Maruyama Okyo (1733–95) is pivotal to Japanese art history for being one of the first artists to paint directly from nature rather than from earlier paintings and sketches. Of his five most famous pairs of screens, four are registered National Treasures by the Japanese government and may therefore never leave Japan except on loan. Only these legendary screens remain unregistered. After a two-year campaign, the Ministry of Culture of Japan granted an official export license to LACMA for the opportunity to acquire these screens, in recognition of the growing importance of LACMA's Pavilion for Japanese Art and its collections, and in the hope of promoting appreciation for the very highest achievement in the history of Japanese painting.

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This installation was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Image: Maruyama Okyo, Cranes, 1772, An’ei period (1772–1780), Pair of six- panel screens; ink, color, and gold leaf on paper; a-b) Mount 67 1⁄4 x 137 3⁄4 x 3⁄4 in. (170.82 x 349.89 x 1.91 cm) each, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Camilla Chandler Frost in honor of Robert T. Singer (M.2011.106b), Photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA.