Shōrin-zu byōbu (Pine Trees)

Title: Pine Trees (Shorin-zu-byobu)
Creator: Hasegawa Tōhaku
Location: Japan
Material/Medium: Ink on paper, diptych, screen wall
Date: 1568-1600
Culture: Japanese Zen
Dimension: Each panel 156.8 × 356 cm (61.73 × 140.16 in)
Repository: Tokyo National Museum

Description: Hasegawa Tōhaku’s Pine Trees is a large byōbu with six panels and measures to approximately 156.8 × 356 cm (61.73 × 140.16 in) for each panel. This specific piece represents the right half of the whole set (Pine Trees), sharing the same qualities as its counterpart. The work is constructed from Indian ink on paper attached to wooden frames and depicts a grove of pines shrouded in mist with faint snow mountains lurking in the distance. The trees almost seem to emerge and recede into the heavy atmosphere of the cold air while some trees tilt diagonally, suggesting the uneven terrain of the scene and/or a howling wind forcing the trees to sway. Despite only using one material (black ink), Hasegawa Tōhaku creates a wide variety of effects through mixed combinations of brush stroke lengths, intensity, and moisture. For example, the foreground tree portrays a composition of short, bold, and dry brush strokes that creates a dark silhouette and implies its visual proximity to the viewer. Additionally, techniques of Japanese Zen are influential and felt throughout Pine Trees; the painting’s monumental scale, minimal elements, and monochrome ink all contribute to the negative space created by the pine tree landscape, producing a dramatic visual impact that cultivates the mind and spirit. 


Author: Zach McCrystal

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