A BRUSH WITH ANIMALS: Japanese Paintings 1700-1950, by Robert Schaap, with essays by Willem van Gulik, Henk Herwig, Arendie Herwig-Kempers, Daniel McKee and Andrew Thompson. Leiden: Society of Japanese Arts (distributed by Hotei/Brill), 2007, 206 pp. with 275 color illustrations, $117 (cloth), $81 (paper)

This is the catalog of an exhibition at the Rotterdam Kunstahl organized to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the International Society of Japanese Arts, most members of which are museums or private collectors. The theme was Japanese animal imagery, some 250 years of it, with an emphasis on works by artists of the naturalistic Shijo School. Many of the works have never before been reproduced.

Emphasized also is the vast variety of animals that figure in Japanese iconography. Here are whole collections of birds, of fish, the ox of Zen fable, along with more fabulous beasts of the imagination.

These creatures originally came from various sources. Some, such as those traditional symbols for felicity and long life, the crane and the tortoise, came from the classic works of Chinese literature, as adopted by the Japanese ruling classes, eager to emulate things Chinese. Others (the Zen ox, for example) came from Buddhism, and others yet from native sources, or from Japanese adaptation.