Japanese Folding Screen 日本屏风

Kyoichi Itoh 伊藤京一

The talk narrates the history and development of Japanese Folding Screens, and how painters paint on Japanese folding screens. It also tells why and how there are so many Japanese folding screens in West.

Folding screens were originated in Han Dynasty China.  It was introduced to Japan through Korean Kingdom around 8th Century.  Japanese development of strong paper enabled the screens to have paper hinges rather than cloth or metal.  The entire six panels become artist’s canvas with continuation of designs.

The beauty of Japanese screens is universal.  Opening up the Japan in mid-19th Century, Japanese Folding screens were first introduced at the Paris and London Expositions.  There are lots of collections in Europe and the US, however, how screens are made is not well known even among art historians and conservators.  Besides the usual tears in the paper support and up-lifting of paint layers, this pair of Japanese folding screens had serious and severe damage from the previous restorer’s extensive overpainting.

The talk will use videos to tell how folding screens are made by multiple craftsmen, such as wooden under-core maker, silk brocade weavers, paper craftsmen (mounters), metal ornament makers, lacquer craftsmen, gold guiders and painters as well as a case study of the restoration of Japanese folded screen.

Cranes and Pine, Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

Kyoichi Itoh, senior conservator has joined Nishio Conservation Studio since 1996.  Nishio Conservation Studio conserves Asian scroll and screen paintings and is one of major private conservation studios in the United States.

Itoh was trained in traditional conservation and scroll and screen mounting at Harada Studio in Kyoto, Japan for ten years.  He then worked at the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution in 1986-96.  He received Smithsonian Awards in reorganization for his work both in 1990 and 1996.  He has educated many young Western paper conservators and treated various collections.  Itoh received Conservation Certificate from Bunkacho- Department of Cultural Fair of Japanese Government and is a member of Conservation of Cultural Property in Japan.

Demonstration 1. Traditional Japanese  Screen and Scroll Mounting Techniques                  


Kyoichi Itoh 伊藤京一

Part A. Demonstration of traditional Japanese screen and scroll mounting techniques (40 minuets)

  1. Cutting paper
    • All four corners must be 90 degrees
    • Using a Japanese round knife and straight edge
  2. Fibre cutting
    • Paper is cut with fibres being pulled out
    • Joining paper to made a paper roll
  3. Lining silk with Japanese paper and paste
    • Design of the patterns must be straighten
    • Straining pasted and mashing
    • Wheat starch paste is pasted to the lining paper using Japanese technique
    • Lining using Japanese nageuchi, carrying pasted lining paper
    • Dry on a karibari drying board


Part B. Reviewing Video (15 minutes)

  1. Showing specific techniques using the video.  This short session is important to show more techniques.
  2. Q&A