Japanese screens are central to both the art production and architecture since at least the C12th. Called byobu in Japanese, meaning ‘protection from the wind’, they were made in pairs of 6 panels designed to be free standing and usually intended to face each other, to create smaller spaces within an larger more open spaces, where drafts could be deflected and a cosy corner could be created. Intimate spaces created by them were used for many reasons, private tete a tete meetings, womens sewing groups or for sleeping. Although the idea of screens first appeared in China, the Japanese adopted the idea and made it their own. The work of Japans major artists and schools of art was produced on commissioned screens or scrolls, the output was significant and what remains of them now is justifiably precious and collectable.

Shoga, Kano, Tosa, Maruyama and Rimpa (Rinpa) schools, amongst others produced painted byobu screens, fusuma (cupboard door panel painting) over many generations for the decoration of private homes and castles. The Kano school lasted for 300 years.

The Japanese screens themselves are the frame for the painting, made of a complex structure of light timber and different strengths and applications of paper, employing paper hinges. The whole screen is then framed with lacquered wood, sometimes employing a brocade border.

Today screens are usually displayed flat on a wall and make stunning large format artistic statements. The most usual size is approximately 3.0m long by 1.5m - 1.8 m high, although smaller sized formats such as two panel screens are also available. Other proportions or sizes are less common but are available. Pairs of screens are still available, although they are frequently sold as individual works these days.

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