Landscape of the Four Seasons (Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers)

Artist: Sōami (Japanese, died 1525)

Period: Muromachi period (1392–1573)

Date: early 16th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink on paper

Dimensions: Each: 68 1/4 × 146 in. (173.4 × 370.8 cm)

Classification: Screens

Credit Line: Gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr., 1941

Accession Number: 41.59.1, .2


Vast landscapes on screens and sliding doors set a serene and contemplative mood in Muromachi-period mansions and temples. The painting depicts the Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers. Enlarged and unified as a vast landscape, vignettes of daily life are set within the embrace of nature’s cycles, conforming to a longstanding preference in Japanese interior decoration that is rooted in the art and poetry of the Late Heian period (897–1185).

At far right, a traveler crosses a bridge to a village glimpsed amid rising clouds of spring and mist. In the center, waterfalls cascade to the open river, where the bustle of fishermen signals summer. In the left screen, boats moored at a distant shore and a line of migrating geese convey autumnal nostalgia. Snow-covered rooftops at the base of whitened mountains bring the cycle to a close.

Sōami was the last of three generations of connoisseurs who served as artistic advisers to the Ashikaga shoguns in Kyoto. Both screens are signed “Brushed by Kangaku Shinsō,” Sōami’s artist’s name followed by his Buddhist name, over a red intaglio seal.