early 16th century
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
Image only, H. 20 3/8 x W. 14 1/4 in. (51.8 x 36.2 cm)
Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.212
This painting by Saian illustrates one of the styles of ink painting popular in Japan in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. A singing bird perches on a snow-laden branch; the blossoms indicate the arrival of spring. A seal reading Saian is impressed in the lower right corner. Very little is known about the artist, who also painted scenes of hermitages nestled in Chinese-style landscapes, except that he was a Buddhist priest associated with the famous Shokokuji, part of the Five Mountain or gozan system of temples, in Kyoto. The powerful and expressive brushstrokes in this painting -- seen for example in the areas of wet (dark black) ink that are used to depict some of the bird's feathers and some buds on the plum tree -- are characteristics often found in Shokokuji-style monochrome paintings.