Birds and Flowers of the Four Seasons: Autumn and Winter

Maker(s)
Artist: Sesshu Toyo (1420-1506)
Historical period(s)
Muromachi period, late 15th-early 16th century
Medium
Ink, and color on paper
Dimensions
H x W: 178.3 x 375.7 cm (70 3/16 x 147 15/16 in)
Geography
Japan
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1953.95
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Type

Screen (six-panel)

Keywords
autumn, Buddhism, egret, flower, goose, Japan, Muromachi period (1333 - 1573), winter, WWII-era provenance
Provenance
Provenance research underway.
Label

After a period of travel and study in China in from 1467 to 1469, the Zen Buddhist monk and painter Sesshu returned to Japan. Recognized during his stay in China as a gifted artist, Sesshu directed his experience and skills toward creating a distinctive new Japanese interpretation of Chinese artistic traditions. In the pair of screens F1953.94-95, he follows the Japanese convention of creating a landscape with a seasonal progression from spring at the far right to winter at the far left. The focus on birds and flowers, however, derives from a traditional subject of Chinese painting.


Sesshu's painting style also reflects Chinese sources in its emphasis on three-dimensional form and observation of the natural world. His interest in dramatic compositions emphasizing spatial depth can be seen in the large, gnarled branch in the foreground of the screen at left, which disappears into water and reemerges to frame a view of the distant, snow-covered mountains. Precise control of ink tones and brush technique, which Sesshu learned from his study of Chinese painting, enhance the expressive quality of this image.

Published References
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 28, vol. 2: p. 160.
  • Ellen Roberts. A Marriage of the Extreme East and the Extreme West: Japanism and Aestheticism in Louis Comfort Tiffany's Rooms in the Bella Apartments. vol. 8, no. 2 New York, 2006. p. 21, fig. 12.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 111.
  • Nakamura Tanio, Kanazawa Hiroshi. Sesshu gagyo shusei. Tokyo. pp. 128-129.
  • Phaidon Editors. 30,000 Years of Art: The Story of Human Creativity Across Time & Space. New York. p. 365.
  • Larry Ball. 30,000 Years of Art: The Story of Human Creativity Across Time and Space. London and New York, 2007. p. 713.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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