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Seasons

A Sensitivity to the Seasons

Autumn and Winter

June 22–December 3, 2006

The paintings, screens, and objects exhibited in these galleries reflect the Japanese people's keen attentiveness to seasonal changes. Cultivated after the nation's capital was established in 794 in 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. Literary works of the Heian period (794–1185), such as thirty-one–syllable waka poetry and even grand romances such as the Tale of Genji, were inextricably bound to the seasons. In painting, landscapes were almost always tinged with seasonal signs, and the subject of flowers and birds in paintings was depicted in an appropriate seasonal context. Paintings representing the ordinary and extraordinary activities of the Kyoto citizenry were also arranged into four seasons, or twelve months. A pair of six-panel screens was an ideal format in which to illustrate various subjects—landscapes, flowers and birds, or human activities—over the twelve months of the year.