A unique work of Japanese Art

The day began with a few scrolls that were acquired in Japan. Normally the routine would be opening the box, observing the box inscriptions and any attached documents, then hang the scroll to observe the painting and determine whether the work was done by the artist or not. That day, I opened a box that housed one hanging scroll by the noted Meiji period (1868-1912) artist, Suzuki Shonen. The inscription on the box read, “ren ken ren sen yi no gotoku” or roughly translated as, “may all your successive battles and challenges go your way”. While I opened the box, I recalled that the piece was a kacho-ga or a term used in Japanese art to categorize animal and flower still lives. Inside the box were the scroll and a piece of paper with the photo of the piece, which I thought was interesting. Nothing much went through my mind until I unrolled the scroll.

Ryosuke Ueda

  • Japanese Paintings

As I carefully observed the painting, I realized the uniqueness of the work.


The scroll was mounted beautifully using extremely luxurious brocades; the painting was an image of an interesting flower arrangement done in a large vase set on the side. As I carefully observed the painting, I realized the uniqueness of the work. The painting contained a different energy in comparison to other works by Suzuki Shonen, the seal used stated that the work was made in celebration of the Russo-Japanese war in 1905 and was not a seal found in any reference books or other published works. As I looked back at the box inscription, the inscriber wrote that his great great grandfather created the work around 1905 and certified that the work was indeed his. The work was more than unique.


As I compared paintings that Shonen had done during this period in time, the scroll hanging in front me was something completely different. Shonen painted the Japanese flag or people celebrating in the streets.The paper that came with the scroll contained two photos. One was the scroll and there was another work done by the same artist.

Inside my head I was visualizing how the scroll might have been displayed, the venue, it was like virtually transporting myself with the scroll to the time period when the scroll was first displayed the public. The scroll is still with me, waiting to tell its unique story to the next person.