Magpies on pine, blackbirds on grey or white.

Crows and Cryptomeria, late 16th century

Not on Viewexpand_more

A crow's cry is considered an ill omen in China and Japan, yet crows became a standard theme among Japanese artists from the 1500s onward. They may have been inspired by imported Chinese paintings of myna birds, which are not native to Japan, substituting the native species of crow instead. Painters of folding screens (which usually come in pairs) often paired a scene of raucous black crows with a quiet image of white egrets—the contrast heightened by the birds' coloration. Artists of the Hasegawa school, which originated with the celebrated painter Hasegawa Tōhaku (1539–1610), specialized in the impressionistic handling of ink brushwork seen here in the sketchily rendered branches.

Crows and Cryptomeria
Accession Number
Curator Approved

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Magpies on pine, blackbirds on grey or white.