Omura Koyo (1890–1983)

Deer Scroll

Omura Koyo (1890–1983)

Item number: T-1628
Size: H 44.9" x W 16.3" (114 x 41.5 cm)
Era: Showa era (1926-89)

Other views

mid 1930s

Hanging scroll; ink and colors on silk. Signature, seals and inscriptions: On painting: signature and seal read Kōyō. The artist has inscribed the title of the painting on the box: Deer『鹿』. Inside the cover, the artist has written: Kōyōjidai 広陽自題, »title [written] by the artist, Kōyō.« This is sealed: Kōyō This painting of a pair of deer under autumn leaves is painted by ōmura Kōyō, the same artist that produced the monumental work Seiran, described elsewhere in this catalog. The hanging scroll describes a stag facing the viewer and a doe looking back toward its mate. The two deer are shown below branches of a maple tree late in the season: only a few leaves remain, indicating the passing of time and the coming of winter. This point is further emphasized by the presence of a few leaves that have fallen on the ground below. Kōyō frequently claimed Takeuchi Seihō竹内栖鳳 as his teacher and there are clearly common traits between the styles of the two. First of all, there is an emphasis on the drawn line that evokes the idea of sketching from life. This was a key to Seihō’s teaching and a feature that repeatedly occurs in his own paining. It can also be seen in this painting, for example, in the way that the antlers and the outlines of the stag’s head are depicted. Seihōoften placed his animal studies against a blank background (as in this image) and created a dynamic balance between the various parts of the composition, as in this painting, where Kōyōbalances the two softer figures of the deer below with the clear outlines of the maple branches above. Finally, Seihōusually describes his animals in the middle of a movement, freezing that specific instant in his painting: Kōyōalso stops the falling of the autumn leaves and shows us the very moment when the doe looks back on her mate, recreating autumn in this specific poetic moment. This painting was painted in the 1930s, in a transition period between Kōyō’s earlier works, which tended to be focused on nature studies, particularly those of birds and flowers. After the world war, with the lack of opportunities and personal setbacks, Kōyō’s work turns introspective, culminating in a series of striking and deeply felt images of Buddhist deities and temples. In the painting at hand—from his younger years and before the tragedies of the war—we still sense optimism and a deep belief in the constants of Japanese nature and culture.

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