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Gregg Baker Asian Art

A two-fold silk on paper
screen painted in ink and colour with a Maiko (trainee Geisha)

Title: “Spring Night”
Signed: Shunko.
Japan
Taisho period, 20th century
H. 69” x W. 67½” (175cm x 172cm)

Seated in front of a screen, reading an emaki (hand scroll) by candlelight. Beside her is a male doll and in the background is a flower arrangement of nadeshiko (fringed pinks) which are also incorporated in the design of the screen behind her and on her kimono. Nadeshiko, cherished as one of the seven flowers of autumn, also have a long tradition in literature and symbolise the ideal woman, combining strength and beauty. Clearly the artist has made this reference intentionally.

Wake Shunko (1887-d.?) was the eldest daughter of a doctor from Osaka. Her given name was Michiko. She had a teaching degree from The Women’s College Kyoto, however Shunko decided instead to pursue an artistic career. She first studied with another female artist who is celebrated for her bijinga (paintings of beauties), Uemura Shoen (1874-1949), but later turned for guidance to Kikuchi Keigetsu. (1878-1955). She is known to have lived in Kyoto around 1918, but seems to have moved in 1937 to Gifu city in Gifu prefecture.

In 1918 she was invited to exhibit at the Bunten (Imperial Art Academy) and showed a piece entitled ‘Disappearing Clock of Life’ and won a prize for it. In 1922 at the Fourth Teiten Exhibiton her work ‘Spring’ also won a prize. ‘Spring Night’ was exhibited at the Seventh Teiten exhibition in 1926 and illustrated in the accompanying volume, no. 232.

all text & images Gregg Baker Asian Art

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