Hokusai

Cranes on a Snow-Covered Pine Tree (1834)

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Against a grey, bokashi-washed sky, two cranes preen themselves amidst the branches of a tree beset with winter snow.

Likely a new year print, as Hokusai draws upon the symbolic significance of the crane and the pine tree, which were both associated with the new year in Japanese culture. The covering of snow also suggests the season.

Hokusai is also probably alluding to the "happy land of the immortals" on mythical Mount Horai, where cranes were believed to make their homes amidst the pine-clad slopes.

This print is part of an untitled series of long, vertical nature studies from 1833, at a time when Hokusai produced many such detailed prints of birds, flowers and other animals. These elongated prints, with exquisite detail, symbolic allusions and fine printing were likely aimed at a more well-to-do audience in the Edo cultural elite.