This masterful rendition of an idilic landscape done in the Nanga style of Chinese painting is spread across three canvases titled 1) “Arashiyama” (A district nestled at the foot of Kyoto’s eastern mountain range), 2) “Kyomizu-dera” (One of Kyoto’s most iconic temples located in the western foothills), and 3) “Tatsuta” (An area west of Kyoto on the edge of Lake Biwa, known for its expansive fields of lotus flowers). These three actual places are used as the inspiration for this fanciful interpretation that is expressed through a classical Chinese painting style.
The Kyoto-born painter who created this work, Baisen Hirai (1889 – 1969), completed his formal studies in 1906 and carried on as an independent painter—contrary to the style of the time which was to apprentice under more accomplished painters for a good portion of one’s career. Instead, Hirai actively produced works and entered them in the yearly Bunten and other art competitions in the hopes of being recognized. In 1913 Hirai took a trip to China to study and produce works based on the classic Chinese style of idilic landscape painting known as Nanga. Though he eventually did gain notoriety as a painter, it was short-lived after particularly harsh treatment by several prominent critics who did not appreciate his independent stance nor his non-conformist approach that rejected the dry, academic interpretation of Nanga at the time. It was not until years later, upon reappraisal of his body of work, that he regained his place in history as an influential and innovative figure of the time. Today his pieces can be found in museums around the world including the Kyoto National Museum of Contemporary Art, the Portland Art Museum, and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
In very good condition, this set of three hanging scrolls is done in sumi and color on Japnanese paper with silk border—each scroll being 193.5cm tall and 44cm wide with the artwork being 101.5cm tall and 32cm wide. It comes in its original box signed by the artist and all three paintings bear the artist’s signature (examples of Hirai’s signature and seals available upon request). Included in the box is a slip of paper that appears to be from an auction-house where the piece was purchased.