Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
Autumn 2007, vol 5 no 3


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Hanamura Kokan


Painting on paper in mineral pigments, mounted as a framed panel, depicting a night scene of trained fishing cormorants clamoring around a blazing angling brazier. Sealed on the lower left by the artist (Hanamura Kokan, the go or art name of Hanamura Kiyozo, 1893 - 1959). Showa 11 or 1936.

Titled: Gun'u or Group of Cormorants, this painting was first exhibited at the Bunten Kansaten in 1936, when it was acquired directly from the painter by the art patron and collector Hosokawa Rikizo. Along with the rest of his painting collection it entered the Meguro Gajoen Museum Collection after the War, from which it was acquired by Kagedo in 2003. It is illustrated in the Nittenshi, volume 12, page 254, number 266.

Born in Shizuoka Prefecture, Hanamura Kokan graduated from the Nihonga department of the Tokyo School of Fine Art in 1921. He studied painting under Kawai Gyokudo, and his first acceptance at the annual government art exhibitions came with the 10th Teiten in 1929. He continued to show at the Teiten in 1931 and 1933, the Bunten Kansaten in 1936, and the Shin-Bunten in 1937 and 1941.

As contemporary critic Takeno Iedachi wrote in the December 1936 art journal Bijutsu Orai, Gun'u is an "extremely strong painting." Hanamura Kokan took as his subject the trained cormorants used for night fishing in Gifu. Set at river's edge, the birds cluster in excitement around the fiery iron brazier arcing from the prow of the nearby fishing boat. The soft black of the birds' feathers in the foreground dims to grey in those obscured by the smoke and light of the brazier. Hanamura centers the composition on the flames, which glitter with a dusting of gold. Washes of gofun or clam shell gesso brightened with mica render the smoke shadowing the background. Rhythmic and circular, the composition relies on a restrained color palette that alternates between light and dark. The effect is compelling and dramatic.

78 3/4" high x 79 1/16" wide, inclusive of mounting.
68 1/4" high x 68 1/2" wide, painting dimension.


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