I found this amazing image making the rounds of art blogs on Tumblr and had to find out more. It turns out to be a painting by Japanese artist Matazo Kayama (1927-2004), titled Frozen Forest. I love the fairy tale quality and the way it evokes violence with the swirl of the bird figures, with showing any gore.
Kayama was a successful artist and I had actually seen his work before -- I immediately recognized Cranes, 1988, above -- but I knew nothing about him.
He came from an artistic family, son of a designer of Kimonos, and he grew up in his father's Kyoto studio. I imagine that a kimono designer in pre-war Japan had ties to the royal family or at least the upper aristocracy, and I wonder if that explains how he was able to keep studying art as World War II raged around him and through the lean years after the fighting stopped.
Kayama studied both western and Japanese art, and it shows. A work like the one at the top of the post has a strong western flavor, but Kayama also made many wonderful screens like this one, A Thousand Cranes (1970).
Kayama was very successful in the 1950s and held his first solo show in New York in 1961, but I haven't found any images from his early days. Floating Moon.
I think many of the pictures on the web come from a big retrospective show that toured the US and Japan in 2009. I love Kayama's style, and I am happy to have stumbled onto his paintings.