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Animals of the Zodiac (One of pair)

Accession Number
2003/1.383.1

Title
Animals of the Zodiac (One of pair)

Artist(s)
Yoshikawa Kôkei

Object Creation Date
1924

Medium & Support
one of a pair of six-panel folding screens, ink and color on silk

Dimensions
67 in x 147 ½ in (170.18 cm x 374.65 cm)

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by the Margaret Watson Parker Art Collection Fund

Label copy
See commantary for 2003/1.383.2
The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac have an ancient history, dating back at least two thousand years. In the Chinese calendrical system, the zodiac animals represent not only a sequence of years, but also times of the day and directions of the compass. This system spread throughout East Asia, and is maintained today—as anyone knows who has dined at a Chinese restaurant—despite the adoption of a Gregorian calendar and modern clocks.
In this light-hearted update of a traditional theme, the artist presents the zodiac creatures in their proper sequence, from right to left: mouse, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, serpent, horse, goat, monkey, chicken, dog, and boar. The minimal background of a few plants reinforces the concept of a natural cycle, moving through the seasons from spring (bamboo shoots and pinks) through autumn (chrysanthemums and pampas grass). With great skill, the artist renders each animal in a naturalistic way—even the imaginary dragon—persuasively rendering textures of skin or fur, and he boasts of his prowess at foreshortening by having the animals turn and twist against the picture plane. Very little is known about the artist, Yoshikawa Kôkei, but his style here is characteristic of the Maruyama/Shijô School of painters who worked in Kyoto from the late eighteenth century through the early twentieth century, and had an eager audience among the merchant class clientele of that city.
Maribeth Graybill
“Four Seasons In Japanese Art”: Special Installation of Japanese Gallery at UMMA: Object Labels
July 5, 2003-January 4, 2004
The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac, who represent not only the sequence of years but also the times of the day and directions of the compass, have a history that dates back at least two thousand years. From China this calendrical system spread throughout East Asia, and it is still in use today despite the adoption of a Gregorian calendar and modern clocks.
In this lighthearted update of a traditional theme, the animals are presented in their proper sequence, from right to left: mouse, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, serpent, horse, goat, monkey, chicken, dog, and boar. The minimal background of a few plants reinforces the concept of a natural cycle that moves through the seasons from spring (bamboo shoots and pinks) through autumn (chrysanthemums and pampas grass). The artist skillfully depicts each animal—even the imaginary dragon—in a naturalistic way, persuasively rendering textures of skin or fur, and he displays his prowess at foreshortening in the twists and turns of their bodies. Very little is known about the artist, but his style here is characteristic of the Maruyama-Shijô school of painters, who worked in Kyoto from the late eighteenth century through the early twentieth century and had an eager audience among the merchant class of that city.
Winter 2011 Gallery Rotation

Subject matter
The twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac, who represent not only the sequence of years but also the times of the day and directions of the compass, have a history that dates back at least two thousand years. From China this calendrical system spread throughout East Asia, and it is still in use today despite the adoption of a Gregorian calendar and modern clocks.
The minimal background of a few plants reinforces the concept of a natural cycle that moves through the seasons from spring (bamboo shoots and pinks) through autumn (chrysanthemums and pampas grass).

Physical Description
The animals are presented in zodiac sequence, from right to left: mouse, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, serpent, horse, goat, monkey, chicken, dog, and boar. The eight-fold screen allows the animals to seem to walk across the space. Negative space plays a significant role in the screen, creating a place for the animals to exist and at the same time extending into the room.

Primary Object Classification
Painting

Primary Object Type
screen

Collection Area
Asian

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
dragons
rabbits
screens (furniture)
zodiac symbols

1 Related Resource

Ink and Realisms
(Part of: Artist Associations and Art Movements)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved