In 1930s Japan, a fashion for neo-Rinpa paintings resulted in a number of distinguished works. Few were more iconic than this Maeda Seison rendering of poppies. As a young man, Maeda had been in a group of artists with access to the collection of Hara Sankei (1868–1939), a major art impresario and one of Charles Lang Freer’s good friends. At Hara’s villa in Yokohama, the young artist studied fine examples by Sōtatsu, Kōrin, and other artists.
The poppies create a gorgeous and rhythmic pattern that reflects Kōrin’s style rather than Sōtatsu’s. Like others in his generation, Maeda transformed Kōrin’s classic flat renderings into a more vividly lifelike surface, combining realism with a decorative sensibility. Poppies were a popular presence in the Sōtatsu and I’nen-seal repertoire, considered exotic because they had recently arrived in Japan.
Maeda Seison (1885–1977)
Pair of six-panel folding screens
Color on paper