Cranes, LACMA’s newly acquired screens by Maruyama Okyo, are described as being in the top five pairs of screens by the artist, the others being Japanese national treasures. You might wonder what the other screens look like. These images are taken from the website Kiritz Japan and are placed in approximate chronological order.
Dragon with Clouds was painted the year after Cranes (in 1773). It’s said to be in a corporate collection in Gifu Prefecture. (In Japan corporation don’t necessarily brag about what they own.) The organizers of a recent Okyo show had wanted to show the LACMA painting but were told that the Cranes had flown to America. Dragon with Clouds replaced it in the show.
Next is Wisteria Flowers (1776) in the Nezu Museum.
Rainy-Weather Bamboo and Windy-Weather Bamboo, from the same year as Wisteria, are in Kyoto’s Enko-in Temple.
Most celebrated of all is Snow Pine Trees (1786), in the Mitsui Memorial Museum.
Hozu River (1795), done the year of the artist’s death, is in the Chiso Collection.
You can see that Cranes is a type of painting with no parallel among the other famous pairs of screens. It is both Audubon-naturalistic and resolutely abstract with its gold ground. In that it bears comparison to Okyo’s nature sketches. At the time he was painting Cranes Okyo was keeping an Album of Sketches that is now in the Tokyo National Museum. Each opening shows realistic insects, plants, and animals, arrayed with artful mis-en-page against a plain-paper background. The pages below are a sampling.