Bamboo in the Four Seasons

Artist: Attributed to Tosa Mitsunobu (1434–1525)

Period: Muromachi period (1392–1573)

Date: late 15th–early 16th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Pair of six-panel screens; ink, color, and gold leaf on paper

Dimensions: Image (each): 61 13/16 in. × 11 ft. 9 3/4 in. (157 × 360 cm)

Classification: Screens

Credit Line: The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975

Accession Number: 1975.268.44, .45


The traditional Chinese subject of bamboo is given a distinctly Japanese treatment in this rendition of the four seasons. Stands of mature bamboo, leafy young bamboo plants, and tapering bamboo shoots are loosely grouped across the surface of this pair of screens, with violets and shepherd’s purse clustered near the bases of taller stalks. Beginning on the right, the seasons progress from spring to winter, although young bamboo branches, bowing as though caught in a breeze, unify the composition. The tallest bamboo plants extend upward beyond the picture plane, while the stems of younger plants are cropped by the lower border. This, along with the absence of dense clumps of foliage and the distant haze suggested by a light application of gold in the background, creates an impression of vast space. The artist appears to have mixed characteristics of different bamboo species for decorative effect.