This set of paintings represents various domestic and wild birds. In each work one or two birds are set against a neutral background unbroken except for a few plants on the birds’ right and left sides—a chrysanthemum, mountain ebony, bamboo, tasseled reed, and a branch of a bare tree—to add interest to the otherwise simple compositions. Each of the six paintings was framed separately, but they may originally have been joined in a single folding screen. Here they are displayed in the following order (left to right):
Hen and rooster with chrysanthemums
Rooster under mountain ebony
Crane standing near succulent plants
Two cranes beside a bamboo stalk
Duck beside a tasseled reed
Hawk perching on a branch of bare tree
Painted in ink monochrome, the birds have been reduced to geometric shapes: circles, ovals, and triangles. The expressive impact of the paintings comes from the powerful brushstrokes and the intense contrast of black and white. Though reminiscent of certain bird paintings by Ito Jakuchu (1716–1800), an individualist painter active in Kyoto, the works shown here lack the .ne details and .uid expressive lines for which Jakuchu is known. The unknown painter of this set must have been inspired by Jakuchu’ s paintings.