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Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents Cranes by Maruyama Okyo

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents Cranes by Maruyama Okyo on view from January 19, 2013, an extraordinary pair of Japanese screens recently acquired by the museum’s Curator of Japanese Art, Robert T. Singer.

Maruyama Okyo, Cranes, 1772, An’ei period (1772-1780), Pair of sixpanel screens; ink, color, and gold leaf on paper; a-b) Mount 67 ¼ x 137 ¾ x ¾ in. (170.82 x 349.89 x 1.91 cm) each, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Camilla Chandler Frost in honor of Robert T. Singer (M.2011.106b), Photo © 2012 Museum Associates/LACMA.

Maruyama Okyo (1733-95) is pivotal to Japanese art history for being one of the first artists to paint directly from nature rather than from paintings and sketches. Of his five most famous pairs of screens, four are registered National Treasures by the Japanese government and may therefore never leave Japan except on loan. Only these legendary screens remain unregistered, and on February 22, 2011 after a two-year campaign by Singer, the Ministry of Culture of Japan granted an official export license to LACMA for the opportunity to acquire these screens. This honor was granted in recognition of the growing importance of LACMA’s Pavilion for Japanese Art and its collections, and in the hope that Americans and Europeans can thereby appreciate the very highest achievement in the history of Japanese painting.

The pair of screens together measure five and a half feet tall and twenty- two feet long. Depicted are seventeen cranes, twelve of one species (Red- crowned Cranes), five of another (White-naped Cranes), which are shown resting, sleeping, nestling, and peering into the distance. Much copied by later Japanese artists, these paintings were revolutionary at the time Okyo painted them: there is no ground plane, no water or streams, no rocks, and no vegetation of any kind. The screens consist simply of seventeen near-life-size cranes against a solid background of pure gold leaf. Meticulously painted in the finest detail, each crane possesses its own character, personality, and feeling. –

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