We have always loved the versatility of Japanese screens. Despite their age, they manage to look timeless, chic and almost modern when placed in a variety of different interiors, even the most contemporary. The unsung hero of the art world. They can be used as both a full impact piece of art, or a one off room divider that can adds a touch of drama. It is no wonder that their popularity seems to be going from strength to strength.
Like many Japanese arts and crafts items, the folding screens we see today originate from Chinese design. Unlike the Chinese equivalent of Coromandel screens; heavy wooden structures intricately decorated and not intended for much movement, the Japanese equivalent is light; a wooden frame with decorated paper, and even uses paper hinges.
While a larger screens with up to eight folds were used during dancing events and large parties. The late 19th century saw a massive upsurge in import of Japanese screens to the West. This was the first wave of true popularity. With the screens being incorporated into home design.
I have always found it slightly confusing as to why the screens have such a strong Chinese influence and often use Chinese characters as opposed to Japanese, upon research it is clear to see why. Heavily influenced by Chinese design and subject matter. Whereas Coromandel screens were historically saved for the elite, the Japanese equivalent were much more common and accessible to the masses.
Unlike the heavier Coromandel screens which are richly detailed and often darker in colour and tone. The Japanese equivalent sees a lighter pattern, often depicting cherry blossom, nature, animals and figures, they are much more sparsely designed, an aspect that lends them so beautifully to a modern and simplistic interior for that subtle flash of colour and design.