Nakano Kimei (1834-1892)
Two-fold screen depicting cherry blossoms and maple trees
Ink, color and gold leaf on paper
41 3/4 x 66 3/8 in.
Titled: Kōkō baihō sha (Depiction of a Hillside with White Plum Trees)
Format: Unusual size two-fold screen
“Kimei excelled in capturing everyday people in festival settings and cultural activities.”
- Rimpa Painting. Vol. 4 (Kyoto: Shikosha, 1991), p. 240.
Drawing from two prominent themes in the rinpa tradition, Mount Yoshino with white plum trees and falling red maple leaves at the Tatsuta River, Nakano Kimei has created a startling modern composition by asymmetrically and diagonally bisecting the unusually shaped two-fold screen into dark and light sections. The upper half with rolling green hills dotted with blossoming white plum trees is balanced by the darker section showing brightly colored maple leaves cascading into a stream. Within one work, Kimei has successfully acknowledged the work of previous rinpa masters, (Sotatsu, Hoitsu, Kiitsu) but recast these popular themes in a startling, new way.
Kimei was considered a prodigy among the pupils of rinpa school, master Suzuki Kiitsu (1796-1858). His pseudonyms were Hōrindō and Seiseisai. He was best known for his figurative images based on Japanese literature and folklore. In 1884, he was commissioned to paint cedar doors for the Imperial Palace. In addition to painting he also designed illustrated books (ehon) such as Sakai Hōitsu’s Ogata ryū hyakuzu (One Hundred Paintings of the Ogata Lineage) in 1892 with some additions and revisions (see: J. Carpenter, Designing Nature: The Rinpa Aesthetic in Japanese Art (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012), cat. no. 22).
For the establishment by the Meiji government of the Naikoku kaiga kyōshinkai (Domestic Painting Competitive Exhibition) to promote traditional-style contemporary Japanese painting in 1882 and again in 1884, Kimei submitted several works and won prestigious prizes in both years.
His son, Nakano Kigyoku also became a notable rinpa painter, working in the Kōrin style.