National Gallery of Australia unveils rare Japanese treasure
Monday 7 August 2006
DETAIL: 'Pine trees by the shore' c.1550, Muromachi period (1339–1574) Japan, pair of six-fold screens: gold, ink and colour on paper each 175 x 366cm, collection of the National Gallery of Australia Gift of Andrew and Hiroko Gwinnett and the National Gallery of Australia Foundation 2006
The Hon. Alexander Downer, Minister for Foreign Affairs unveiled two rare Japanese screens recently acquired by the National Gallery of Australia on Monday 7 August 2006.
Painted around 1550, the Gallery’s new acquisition Pine trees by the shore is a rare example of an intact pair of screens from such an early date. In most cases only single screens from Muromachi pairs from this period survive.
Pine trees by the shore is a pair of gilded screens from Japan’s Muromachi period (1392-1573) and arguably the earliest and most significant pair of Japanese screens to enter an Australian public collection. The work presents a vibrant and detailed scene of horses and sailing craft amongst pine trees on the bank of an inlet. To have a complete pair of screens dating from the mid 16th century, as the Gallery now does, is very rare indeed.
The subject of pine trees by a shore, or hamamatsu, is a popular theme in Japanese art. The evergreen pine tree (matsu) is a symbol of youth and longevity and dignity. The earliest known surviving hamamatsu screen is from the fifteenth century and is in the collection of the Tokyo National Museum.
Japanese folding screens are known as byobu, or protection from the wind. They function as an integral part of interior space and are designed to serve as room dividers as well as objects of beauty. Most painted screens were commissioned by wealthy patrons and embellished to suit their purpose with themes selected according to whether the screens were for public or private spaces.
The screens have been acquired through the generous assistance of the National Gallery of Australia Foundation benefactors Mr Andrew Gwinnett and Mrs Hiroko Gwinnett. Long standing members of the Foundation, Mr and Mrs Gwinnett have generously supported the development of the Gallery’s collection through important gifts.
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