This painting inculdes the seal of the artist Ren Xun. A crane stands in the foreground, with it's head and beak turned toward the viewer, revealing a patch of orangish red on its face. A pine tree arches across the background above.
Ren Xun, best known for painting birds and animals, was the younger brother of Ren Xiong’s (1823–1857). This elegant painting of a crane, a symbol of immortality, and pine and bamboo, symbols of longevity, is appropriate for birthday or New Year’s gifts. To suggest the cold season, Ren Xun chose orange pigment to depict the pine needles.
This six-fold screen, a half of a pair, is meant to represent six of the twelve months of the year, with keen attention paid to the birds and flowers associated with each. Although this screen bears Kano Tan’yu’s signature, it was probably created by his studio or by followers working in this famous artist’s style.
Depictions of the seasons have a prominent place in the tradition of the Kano School (the official school of painting of the Tokugawa shogunate) and Japanese art. But painters were not alone in their masterful use of seasonal references—poetry also drew heavily on such motifs and exchange often took place between these genres, with poems inspiring painted scenes and paintings finding representation in poetic verse. The following late Heian (794–1185) and early Kamakura (1185–1333) period poems would have been part of the artistic dialogue that informs the motifs on these screens:
Spring is the cherry blossom
Summer is the cuckoo
Autumn is the moon
And in winter,
the shimmering snow is fresh to the eye.
Eihei Do-gen (1200–1253)
In the evening, the biting autumn wind blows through the field
Inscribed in pencil, verso bottom: Gaudier-Brzeska "Pengiuns"/Ex Zwemmer 1931. Ex Major Haldane MacFall./ Part of #140 College Art Ex. 1931-2 Inscribed in pencil, verso, l.r.: G.136 Collector's stamp (not in Lugt), verso, l.l:D.F.P.