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Japan, Muromachi (1392-1573)-Momoyama (1573-1615) periods
Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink on paper
Overall: 168.7 x 350.4 cm (66 7/16 x 137 15/16 in.); Image: 157.3 x 339 cm (61 15/16 x 133 7/16 in.)
Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1959.136.2
This screen with a tiger and its pair with a dragon together represent the elements of water and wind in Chinese cosmology: the dragon’s swirling form conjures rain clouds, and the tiger embodies the wind’s terrible, unpredictable force. Former CMA director Sherman Lee found in Sesson’s paintings intimations of a developing Japanese style distinct from Chinese predecessors. Here, parody and pattern are at the forefront. The formidable, awe-inspiring tiger takes on the demeanor of a curious house cat, and a once-snarling dragon’s face morphs into an oddly befuddled human expression. Such exaggerated, humorously rendered faces suggest a gentle domestication of these primal forces. Lee described Sesson’s work as inhabiting a world of aesthetic awareness, in which brushstroke and pattern are primary and where waves are "arranged in graceful and rhythmically repetitive reflex curves, primarily decorative shapes and only secondarily water and foam."
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