Important Cultural Property
By Touhaku Hasegawa
A pair of six-fold screens
Color on paper
Azuchi-Momoyama period/16th century
Tokyo National Museum
There used to be a seal of "Nobuharu," the former name of Hasegawa Tohaku, impressed on both folding screens. However, since the seals were removed before they came into the possession of the Tokyo National Museum, the folding screens currently bear no seal. The right screen depicts a spring landscape, where wisteria are blooming on a big pine tree and young willow leaves are swaying in the breeze, which is followed by the left screen that shows an autumnal landscape comprising autumn flowers blooming under a tinged maple tree, wild horses resting by water and warriors trying to catch the horses.
The folding screens have a pair structure where the continuation of the ground surface and the water flow lead the eyes of the viewer to the center, which has some depth. The ground is bare, on which designs of the ground and water flow are arranged and painted in copper green and ultramarine. The style, such as the representation of trees winding in a zigzag pattern with delicate, almost too sensitive, lines and the formation of branches growing downward, continues to his later works that were created after he changed his name to Tohaku.
While his brilliant style of contrasting bright colors, such as dark blue, green, brown, red and white, resembles the style of yamato-e (traditional Japanese paintings), it can be said that it originates from the technique of colored Suibokuga (Indian-ink paintings) of the Muromachi period. The slightly rigid representation and somewhat aggressive combination of motifs seem to suggest that this was one of the early works when Tohaku still called himself as "Nobuharu." This pair of folding screens can be considered as the first work of early modern genre painting.