Yesterday, as we were preparing for our Japan show and opening party, I stumbled across an 18th century folding screen painting by a well-known Japanese artist, Okyo Maruyama. This kind of discovery is something that only occurs in the movies, on the Antiques Road Show, or in daydreams. We have been working on the group of twenty Japanese folding screens that arrived recently. I was in Japan in March collecting for David Alan Collection and purchased an amazing assortment of 90-300 year old screens. As I walked past one of the screens, there was a 1/2″ x 1″ sticker with the word “Maruyama” on it. I’d noticed this sticker several times before, but this time I realized it could be the name of the artist. In Japan, as in the West, the artist’s name is a critical piece of information. Running downstairs, I mentally kicked myself for not previously paying attention to the note and being reminded of how tiny flashes of insight can lead to great discoveries. I sat Mark in front of the computer and excitedly told him that we needed to find “Maruyama,” who lived during the Edo period and was a Japanese folding screen painter of adorable puppies and other subjects.
Within an hour, he’d not only found our man, Okyo Maruyama, 1733 – 1795, a Kyoto resident, but also a picture of a smaller puppy painting of his that sold at auction within the past couple years. Now we know our much larger 2-part screen was at least 220 years old. Next I asked Mark to verify the signature and chops to see if they matched his other work. After a couple more hours of research, it became clear that it is indeed a match.
While not an international household name like Van Gogh, Okyo Maruyama is a well-known and highly respected brush painter. There is a piece of his in a show right now at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, CA. That show is closing at the end of next week, so I’ve just made arrangements to go up to the Bowers this week and meet several of the museum’s luminaries for a tour, lunch and an introduction to other works of our now favorite artist.