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Night Light: Sakai Hoitsu's Moonlit Crows

Crows in the Moonlight by Sakai Hoitsu
8"x10" ($24) | 11"x14" ($60) | 16"x20" ($240)

We’re over the moon about this edition, and it’s easy to see why. Crows in the Moonlight is sharp, striking and strangely zen. Plus, the story behind Sakai Hoitsu’s practice—and the movement he fostered—has the makings of a true pass-the-torch legend.

The lives of Japanese Rinpa painting masters Sakai Hoitsu and Ogata Korin are intertwined in the history books. Though the two artists were separated by a span of nearly a hundred years, they’ll forever be bonded by a shared commitment to and passion for the Rinpa school of painting. Hoitsu fell so hard for Korin’s work that he devoted his life to recreating and reviving Korin’s painting style. Korin had himself revived the Rinpa style from its earlier incarnation, further abstracting the representation of nature, delving deeper into inventive color combinations, and driving home the dramatic effect of his compositions.

Hoitsu’s efforts led to a widespread revitalization of Korin’s Rinpa style across the board. This revival movement emphasized expressive gestures and interesting, graphic shapes—a far cry from the realism that was otherwise popular at the time. Hoitsu was instrumental in preserving Korin’s legacy for the long haul, creating his own renowned works of art in the process.

Hoitsu’s Crows in the Moonlight is a recreation and reinterpretation of one of Korin’s works. It embodies many of the defining elements of Rinpa school style: bold forms, innovative use of space, impressionistic shapes, and a preference for gold tones. Hoitsu gravitated toward natural subjects, rather than scenes from classical literature (a more traditional Rinpa subject matter).

In Crows in the Moonlight, the viewer is on the same level as the crows at our center of attention, their dark bodies silhouetted by a large, glowing moon. While the scene is easily decipherable—four birds perched on a branch with a full moon dominating the background—the way Hoitsu rendered it emphasizes form over narrative. It’s a meditation on the power of pointed simplicity, and a reminder to see the beauty in the everyday. Who wouldn't want that on their walls?

With art for everyone,
Jen Bekman + Team 20x200