National Treasure

Red and White Plum Blossoms

By Ogata Korin

Information

Data

Artist By Ogata Korin
Period Edo period, 18th century
Materials and techniques Pair of two-fold screens, colour and gold leaf on paper
Size 156.0×172.2 each

Explanation

Kōrin deeply admired the work of Sōtatsu, a painter who had worked during the first half of the 17th century. Kōrin studied Sōtatsu’s style and later developed his own style.
This painting is one of his most famous works. The composition is rather startling. The white plum tree’s trunk is mostly outside of the screen, and one major branch comes back into the screen horizontally. The red tree’s trunk is almost completely within the screen, and its young branches are extending upward. The stream at the center cuts through the pair of screens and gives the impression of expansion. The elegant pattern of the stream symbolically expresses the rhythmical flow of water. The plum flowers are depicted with pigment only, without any outlines. This technique became quite popular and was known as “Kōrin Plum Flowers.” Buds are scattered here and there among the fully opened flowers in a pleasing manner. Another feature is the application of tarashikomi, a technique in which colors are blended by dripping one over another that is still wet, which is used here to depict the tree trunks. All of these elements are combined to yield a stunning decorative effect which makes this pair of screens one of the greatest masterpieces in the history of Japanese art. The work, believed to be one of Kōrin's latter years, was long held by the Tsugaru family.