five crows perched near top of tree; two are darting down at LL; minimal, curled leaves with light color

Crows in an Old Tree, 18th century

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Seven raucous crows flit in and around an old tree at dusk, a scene all too common in autumn and winter. In Japanese poetry and painting, crows have long served as signs of the arrival of winter (the autumn season is suggested in this painting by the pink highlights on the tree’s leaves), and, by extension, death. One old folk belief is that a crow’s call may signal the death of someone nearby. Another says that a crow’s call at night is an omen of a fire. This can make them a somewhat gloomy motif, as in the famous haiku by Matsuo Bashō (1644–1694), who, like Yosa Buson himself, was a widely celebrated poet: “Crows resting / on a withered branch— / evening in autumn.” Here, though, Buson’s loose, energetic brushwork lends the scene a sense of liveliness.

Details
Title
Crows in an Old Tree
Artist Life
1716 - 1783
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2015.79.128
Catalogue Raisonne
Murase, Art through a Lifetime, no. 316
Curator Approved

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five crows perched near top of tree; two are darting down at LL; minimal, curled leaves with light color