Byōbu or folding screen in two panels, painted on silk in sumi ink, gofun or clam shell gesso and mineral pigments with a scene of a striped, black and white cat lying among flowering plants and grasses in a summer garden. Signed on the lower right by the artist: Hakuhō, and sealed: Hakuhō (Kagayama Hakuhō, the gō or art name of Kagayama Rinjirō, born 1880). With black lacquer frames. Late Taishō – early Shōwa era, circa 1920 – 1930.
Kagayama Hakuhō was born in Okayama Prefecture in 1880. He moved to Kyoto to study painting under Takeuchi Seihō, and later lived and worked in Kobe. He also used the art name of Hakugai. One of his paintings, titled Clear Autumn Sky, is in the collection of the University Art Museum, Kyoto City University of Art.
Amid the lushly green foliage of a summer garden, a resting cat watches alertly. Hakuhō frames the composition with a diagonal cascade of tall grass and flowering plants. Rendered with great realism, orange lilies, blushing morning glories, purple thistles, and small white wildflowers glow in the sunlight. Light washes the foreground and brightens the light green foliage from the left. The gold-washed earth recedes beneath the plants. In the upper right, dark-silver shadows the empty ground. This shade balances the dark greys and blacks striping the cat, which stares out to the open path below the painting’s margin.
With very fine brushwork, Hakuhō uses lavish amounts of malachite green with touches of lapis blue, detailing the brush-tailed grasses and wildflowers in moriage relief, thickening pigments on the broader grasses, and scattering mica to brighten the surface of the sun-dappled garden. Some of the weeds shiver in the wind, their drawn edges mismatched to the wavering pigment. This style of luxuriant naturalism was taken up by a number of talented artists in the later part of the Taishō era, but rarely with as much charm as here in Kagayama Hakuhō’s summer garden.
The small, daisy-like wildflowers are harujion (Erigeron Philadelphicus, commonly known as daisy fleabane and as frost root). First brought to Japan from North America in the Taishō era, harujion were exotic and fashionable additions to the gardens of the era.
68” high x 68 ½” wide, when opened flat.