For those who love Asian art, as I do, the Cleveland Museum of Art is an oasis. Cleveland has one of the best Asian collections in N. America, and now, since earlier this year, it’s housed in a new wing dedicated to the collection.
Each time I visit the collection, I’m entranced. During my last weekly visit, I was captured by One Hundred Birds. I had admired the 17th century painting by an unknown Korean artist before, but this time I avoided counting the birds and focused on the tree. By the way, don’t bother counting the birds; there are nowhere near 100. ‘One hundred’ birds is a term of art that represents abundance. One hundred bird-type paintings is a sub-genre; other paintings in this genre–all with the same title–can have a mere handful of birds.
Embedded solidly in the ground, the undulating force–capturing the air and exploding with life–is a monument to willow trees; a monument to nature. With a direct and forthright manner that matches his subject, the artist has wonderfully captured the solid and thrusting heart of the willow. The birds, attracted to the tree as if by a magnet, play and sing among its branches; you can almost hear the old tree singing along.
The artist’s treatment of his subject reminds me of Rodin’s monument to Balzac–another titanic force of nature. To create such powerful paintings with such simple means is high art.