Kano Shoei spreads out a riverscape shrouded in mist and flanked at the far left by a plum tree of early spring and on the right by an autumn maple. Flowers of the four seasons include camellias, orchids, peonies, pine and bamboo. Snow-covered peaks close the composition at the right. Landscape elements are clearly delineated, with major rock formations deliberately accentuated as though they were individual islands, pulling the eye back and forth in rhythmical progression. Recession is shallow and space condensed. Nature is tamed to convey the intimate scale and gentle harmonies of a well-tended garden. A monkey family plays hide and seek on the left, while a long-tailed bird swoops down on the right with a red sprig in its beak.
Shoei anchors the third quarter of the sixteenth century with a calm and mature style that bridges the work of his father, Kano Motonobu, and his son, Kano Eitoku.
The Akaboshi, former owners of this pair of screens, came from the Satsuma daimyo clan in Kyushu. Akaboshi Yanosuke (1855-1904) made his fortune manufacturing cannons that were used by the Japanese in the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-95). He was a tea aficionado affiliated with the Urasenke school and amassed a fabled collection of paintings and tea wares--Chinese, Japanese and Korean. His son, Akaboshi Tetsuma, sold the collection in several auctions in Tokyo in the early twentieth century. Their thirteenth-century painting of Nachi Waterfall, a National Treasure now in the Nezu Museum, Tokyo, made 85,600 yen. The Korean Ido teabowl named Wasuremizu, an Important Cultural Property now also in the Nezu Museum, made 44,000 yen.