Yonezawa Yoshio, "Rogan-zu ni tsuite (A painting of reeds and geese)," Kokka, no. 929 (1970), pp. 31-40 and pls. 8-9.
In this large hanging scroll two flying geese are balanced by two on the ground. In the foreground are a clump of withering reeds and a river bank that serve as a kind of shallow, raised platform for seated geese. The sides of the bank are demarcated by a plain grey wash applied with broad, undifferentiated strokes. A cluster of long-stemmed reeds rises from the river bank. In the middle distance, a narrow spit of land with short grasses protrudes from the left. Small rocks are suggested by rounded dabs of ink wash.
Additive, miniature strokes create a pleasing contrast of light and dark areas that make the painting easy to appreciate even from a distance. In both the delineation of the reeds and the plumage of the birds the artist aims for schematic and flattened linear patterns. The plumage, for example, is presented as a detailed mosaic.
Considering the large scale of the birds in relation to the surrounding void area and the cropping of reeds and wingtip to the right and left, it seems likely that the original composition was much grander and less cramped. It may have been part of a larger decorative scheme, perhaps a screen or a series of tapestry-like wall hangings. The larger reed rising to the right may have framed or echoed another bird to the right, just as the reed bending to the left seems to form a canopy for the geese on the ground.
The theme of geese in late autumn on a lonely river bank heralds the coming of winter. This popular subject is inspired by Chinese paintings dating from at least as early as the eleventh century. Chinese artists depicted four aspects of geese in nature: flying, crying, sleeping and feeding. Two of these--flying and sleeping--are shown here. One Chinese work that is very similar in its form types is a large hanging scroll of reeds and geese in the collection of the Palace Museum, Taipei, attributed to an anonymous Song artist but probably later in date (fig.1). Many of the elements in that painting reappear here, although the Chinese work is much more naturalistic and its composition more harmonious (see Gugong shuhuatu lu [Catalogue of calligraphy and painting in the Palace Museum], ed. National Palace Museum [Taipei: National Palace Museum, 1989], vol. 3, p. 153.) The bird flying overhead with outstretched neck, and with long, pendant feet in the Korean painting has a nearly mirror-reversed counterpart in the Chinese model. Perhaps both are derived from a printed pattern book. A superb early example of the motif in Korean art is the Koryo dynasty double gourd-shaped celadon ewer in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (27.119.2) (fig. 2). A riverside scene of geese and ducks among reeds is elegantly carved on both sides. The reeds and geese motif is also carved on a twelfth-century Koryo kundika in the National Museum of Korea, Seoul (see Choi Soon-woo, Chungja [Celadon], Hanguk mi [Korean beauty], vol. 4 [Seoul: Joongang Ilbosa, 1981], pl. 30.) A possible point of comparison with this reeds and geese painting is a late Koyro (fourteenth century) ink painting of the Three Friends of the Cold (plum, pine and bamboo) now in the Myomanji, a temple in Japan (see The Great Koryo Exhibition (Seoul: Ho-am Art Gallery, 1995), pl. 58.)
Judging by the scale as well as the tightly controlled brushwork, this is probably the work of a professional academician.
An undeciphered seal at the lower right edge of the painting has been identified as a Kundaikan seal. The name of the unknown artist on the seal corresponds to the name of an artist listed in the Kundaikan sayu choki, the late fifteenth-century manual written by connoisseurs of the collection of the Ashikaga Shoguns (Yonezawa, op. cit., p. 40; see also Hanawa Hoki'ichi, ed., Gunsho ruiju [Collection of historical books and documents], vol. 19, [Tokyo: Zoku Gunsho Ruiju Kanseikai, 1922-33], p. 649). Those paintings are apparently neither Chinese nor Japanese, and are thus assumed to be Korean.