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A Sensitivity to the Seasons

Spring and Summer

December 17, 2005–June 4, 2006

This installation of paintings, screens, and objects in the Arts of Japan galleries reflects the keen attentiveness to seasonal change evident in Japanese art. After the nation's capital was established in 794 in Heian-kyō (present-day Kyoto)—a city surrounded on three sides by mountains and pierced by the Kamo River—a sensitivity to the all-encompassing sweep of the seasons formed the foundation of Japanese life and culture. Even now, in the modern capital of Tokyo, celebrations of the beauty of the seasons and the poignancy of their inevitable evanescence are central to the many festivals and rituals that fill the year—from the welcoming of spring at the lunar New Year to picnics under the blossoming cherry trees to offerings made to the harvest moon.

Poets first lent artistic significance to the cycle of the seasons, and painters and artisans in turn formed images of visual beauty in response to seasonal themes and poetic inspiration. In this way artists in Japan, past and present, have created meditations on the fleeting seasons of life and, through them, have expressed essential truths about the nature of human experience. This installation focuses on works of art related to the seasons of spring and summer.