Katsushika Hokusai, 1760–1849
Cranes on Pine, ca 1834
Color woodblock print (nishiki-e)
Bequest of Richard P. Gale 74.1.241
Cat. no. 202

Although Hokusai did not include a series title, this oversize print belongs to a set of five images representing creatures with long-standing symbolic associations: cranes and pines, longevity; carp, social ambition; hawks, focused endeavor; tortoises, longevity; horses, fecundity. All the prints except the one with horses were typical of New Year’s decoration. They would have been mounted as hanging scrolls for display in the tokonoma, or alcove, in Japanese homes. Capitalizing on the vertical format, Hokusai depicted two red-crested cranes with their long legs and graceful necks. In contrast to the carefully delineated birds, the snow-covered pine branch is defined by impressionistic dots and dabs, as if rendered with a brush, supporting the contention that the prints in this series were meant to be mounted as hanging scrolls to mimic paintings.