Designated since ancient times as one of Japan's three famous beauty spots, Matsushima (Pine islands) is a cluster of small pine-clad islands off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture. The view was immortalized in a haiku by the seventeenth-century poet Matsuo Basho:
A-ah Matsushima, ah!
This screen is a slightly smaller copy of the well-known example by Ogata Korin (1658-1716) in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from the Fenollosa-Weld collection (see Japanese Masterpieces from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston [Tokyo: Tokyo National Museum, 2012], no. 55). Korin, in turn, modeled his composition on the even more famous pair of screens by his predecessor, Tawaraya Sotatsu, now in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
The popular composition was copied often by Korin's studio and followers. A two-panel screen in the British Museum, accepted as the workshop of Korin, features a rocky island topped with pine trees that is very close in composition to the two far-right panels of the screen offered here. The British Museum screen, first published by its original owner, Arthur Morrison, in 1911, is 146.4cm high (see Nicole Rousmaniere, Kazari: Decoration and Display in Japan, 15th-19th Centuries, exh. cat. (New York: Japan Society, 2002), pl. 64.